When I was a young lad growing up in Iowa I would walk right past the local funeral home on my way to and from school. The funeral home in our town was founded the same years as the town, and the building was really a most impressive “mansion,” if such a thing is possible in a small Iowa village, population 1,500.
On the front of the funeral home was a big black clock. For years the clock hung from the front porch of the funeral home until the new owner remodeled the building and enclosed the porch. In enclosing the porch, he made an alcove where the big black clock would sit for another 100 years. Everybody in town looked at that clock when they would pass the funeral home. People would set their watches by that big black clock. People would use it as a barometer as to whether they were running late or early. The clock was a landmark fixture in our town. That big black funeral home clock had a large face, large numerals and hands, and below in solid black letters it said BLUST BROS. (They were our trusted undertakers.)
The other day I received a phone call from a funeral director who asked me a terribly interesting question: “Todd, why do so many funeral homes have a clock on the front of their building or standing in their front lawn?” I was absolutely baffled, and because I do not like being baffled about anything concerning my beloved profession, I was now on the hunt. I had a mission, and I found out some interesting facts which I will share with you later, in part two.
As I pondered my own experiences, I realized just how many funeral homes I have seen over the years have had clocks on their properties. When I was working for Heafey & Heafey in Omaha, the Brewer-Korisko Mortuary in South Omaha had a clock over its portico which was a landmark for people who lived in South Omaha.
Even I had clocks on the two funeral homes I owned a lifetime ago in Iowa. I remember very well when I moved one of the clocks to what I thought was a more prominent location on the building, I received so many phone calls complaining and scolding me about moving that landmark that I ended up moving the clock back to where it had originally been—behind an evergreen bush. Logical or not, people do not like rapid change in a funeral home, and I learned that lesson the hard way.
I remember being in Seattle for a seminar and going by the old ER Butterworth & Sons building, now The Chapel bar and a law office. Sure enough, over the front corner of the building still stood that magnificent clock which had been Butterworth’s trademark for decades.
One of the most impressive funeral home clocks I have ever seen is on the building of the Fox Funeral Home in Forest Hills, New York, which is owned by my longtime friend Wayne Baxter. That clock is also a Forest Hills landmark and has graced the building since it was built.