Parker Mortuary, which has served Joplin families for nearly 90 years, has a new owner who has decided it's time to update the place.

B.J. Goodwin, who owns 10 funeral homes, including Knell Mortuary in Carthage, the oldest in Missouri, and Thornhill-Dillon, the oldest in Joplin, as well as all of the funeral homes in McDonald County, took over on Sept. 4.

"This is a good fit with what we already have,'' he said. "All of the people are still there.''

Goodwin plans to update the chapel inside Parker Mortuary, 1502 S. Joplin Ave. He estimates the upgrade will cost $100,000. He recently had the exterior powerwashed to improve its appearance.

"When the chapel is being torn up for the remodel, we will still be able to meet with families at Parker to make arrangements,'' he said. "But the services will be held a half-mile away at Thornhill-Dillon. This is the advantage of having a sister funeral home so close.''

Goodwin said the mortuary has not changed much since its last major update 40 years ago. There's a good reason for that. A mortuary is a busy place, making it virtually impossible to close for a remodeling project. The space for services at Thornhill-Dillon is making this project possible, Goodwin said. The work will take about 30 days. The mortuary will announce when the project gets underway.

Pat Irwin, who sold the mortuary to Goodwin, said he was approached by an out-of-town conglomerate about selling the business. Irwin said he wanted to sell to someone local who would strengthen the business and continue to provide the level of service that Parker has offered for decades.

Irwin, who has had a 32-year association with Parker, joined with Bill Pratt and the late Tom Keckley in 2002 to purchase the mortuary from Bill Huddleston, who got his start at Thornhill-Dillon.

"Bill raised us in the business,'' said Irwin. "We were old-school. Bill said if you treat everyone the same who comes through that door, you will never have a worry in life. B.J. Goodwin will let us do what we have always done. We won't miss a beat.''

About the remodeling, Irwin said, "We have done some things in little spurts over the years, but it was impossible to do something major because we were so busy and relied so heavily on the chapel.''

The mortuary responds to about 650 calls annually, according to its website.

Goodwin got his start at Simpson Funeral Home in Webb City. He now owns Hedge-Lewis Funeral Home in that town. He acquired Thornhill-Dillon 14 years ago. Recent research shows that it dates back to the late 1890s. Parker Mortuary was founded in 1931 as Lanpher Mortuary. It was sold in 1941 to Steve Parker, a longtime local funeral director, and Fred Hunsaker, a local auto dealer. Parker purchased Hunsaker's interest in 1951. It has operated as Parker Mortuary since.

Goodwin is keenly aware of the historical significance of a mortuary to a community, citing Knell Mortuary in Carthage as an example. They are often among the oldest continually operating businesses in a community. Goodwin said he is looking for photographs and other items that depict Parker's history.

Open for business

When a barber's pole is illuminated and spinning, it's a good sign the barber is in.

Wayne Heath, who opened the Heath III Barber Shop last month in a long-vacant building at 1056 S. Main St., was looking for a barber's pole to attach to the front of his building. He searched for one he could afford but could not find one for his one-chair, "blue collar'' barbershop.

"The barber supply houses were too expensive, but I found one on the internet,'' he said. "I think it looks pretty good out there.''

Heath is a semiretired veteran with years of experience as a barber.

IF YOU HAVE NEWS about something that’s happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, dial 417-623-3480, ext. 7250; or send an email to wkennedy@ joplinglobe.com; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 417-623-8598.

Wally Kennedy is a reporter and columnist for The Joplin Globe.

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