When I was six years old, I distinctly remember my dad and grandfather chatting about the “centennial”. While I did not really understand what it meant, I knew it was a pretty big deal when I received some new Oakey’s Funeral Home pencils that had “Over a Century of Service” emblazoned on them, right next to our dear old phone number of DI-34451. In succeeding years, I learned that 1966 was the year our firm celebrated 100 years of serving the Roanoke Valley. In the fifty years hence, my respect and gratitude for my forefathers has increased exponentially. As Roanoke’s oldest business, I look at my role as one who is the current “Keeper of the Flame,” and it’s my duty to turn the business over to my son in even better condition than I found it when I first took the reins. Hey, I certainly don’t FEEL 150 years old; I know enough not to ask if I LOOK that old!
Our organization has lots of events planned in 2016 to celebrate our big anniversary: seminars, a new facility, banquets, parties, a contest, and publication of a book. But the greatest thing we can do to commemorate a century and a half of service is to recommit ourselves to retaining the ideals and work ethic of my ancestors. Those many Oakeys that came before me are the ones with the work ethic and foresight to position our firm as the valley’s leader in funeral service. Everything we do this year to celebrate our 150th will be to honor those that toiled during those many years.
One of my faults is not being the biggest fan of change. Heck, we would probably still be driving horse drawn funeral coaches if I had been in charge for the past 100 years! Thank goodness my son, who joined the business a year ago upon his graduation from college, is much more progressive and willing to “shake things up.” Working alongside him has been a dream come true, and I’m looking forward to many more years with him learning from the incredible roster of talent we are blessed with. My only regret is that my father passed away in 1998, and is not around to see his grandson thriving in our family trade.
Another of the original John Oakey’s heirs, Debbie Moss, great granddaughter of Oakey’s founder, John M. Oakey, joined our company in 2015 and has shown that she has what might be the biggest heart in southwest Virginia! Debbie has taken our Aftercare program to new levels, and is constantly coming up with new ideas and concepts. When we say we’re a “family firm,” we’re not kidding!
While it’s all nice to honor our past, I need to make sure the focus remains on our future. When firms begin to rest on their laurels, rot and decay can quickly set in. It’s a changing profession we find ourselves in, and Oakey’s must stay relevant in order to provide our families with the best service and products possible. I’m hopeful that our NEXT 150 years will be even grander than our first 150, and that Oakey family members not even born yet will continue to help valley residents during their most difficult times.