For a business to stay open for over 100 years, it must build and maintain a close connection to the community where it is located, and provide lasting service to that community.
Those are two reasons that McFarland Funeral Chapel in Tryon celebrated its 106th anniversary this week.
Service to the community is something the company takes pride in, noted Brian Metcalf, a funeral director and an owner at McFarland’s.
Another characteristic of McFarland’s is the longevity of service by employees. Metcalf has been at McFarland’s for nearly 19 years, and still projects a positive and energetic, yet dignified, demeanor.
“Our goal,” noted Megan Keller, marketing director of Premier Funeral Services, which is associated with McFarland’s, “is to help the families find the peace and closure they’re looking for, and to honor the legacy of their loved ones.”
Keller participated in the interview via telephone.
Founder Frank K. McFarland received the businesses operating license on May 2, 1911, when he passed the state embalming examination, becoming the first licensed embalmer in Polk County. McFarland had been selling caskets with Ballenger’s, a general merchandise store in Tryon.
The business began on the Tryon site now housing First Trust Bank.
McFarland, known as “Senior,” was assisted by his wife, Flora Fisher McFarland, who served as secretary and receptionist. From the beginning, their quiet and understated manner brought a reputation of dignity.
In 1962, McFarland’s moved to its present location, along Rt. 108 (Lynn Road), just on the Columbus side of Tryon. In 1979, an on-site crematory was added.
“We are the only on-site crematory in Polk County,” Metcalf pointed out. “The body does not leave our care.”
Expansion took place in 1994, with the addition of two visitation rooms, a new office and a conference room. This expansive and quiet nature of the building enables McFarland’s staff to meet privately with grief-stricken families who need privacy.
Regarding community service, Metcalf labeled it “a cornerstone” of their business, by supporting initiatives and relationships, and building and growing those relationships. A goal of McFarland’s, Metcalf emphasized, is to “be a touchstone in the community.”
A large facet of McFarland’s service to clients, Metcalf said, is to “walk the family through the process, and take the burden off them.”
Keller noted, “You’re working with families who are going through the hardest thing of their lives.”
Traditional caskets are still part of the variety of services McFarland’s offers, but Metcalf also pointed out that green burial (in bio-degradable caskets) is getting more prevalent.
Another service McFarland’s offers is “pre-need” planning, for which they are licensed by North Carolina. Under this plan, families pre-pay for services. The money is placed in an insurance policy as a hedge against inflation.
Such planning “puts control in the individual,” Keller noted.
“Some people know when they are going to pass,” Metcalf said, but, as he noted, loved ones often die with little warning. “It can take families off guard.”
To help protect against at least some of that shock, “families can come in early, and discuss needs and wants,” he added.
Keller referred to that planning as “pre-arranging.”
Taking on burdens to relieve family members, McFarland’s staff will try to gather vital information for the deceased’s death certificate, and have a doctor or medical examiner help determine the cause of death, according to Metcalf.
Then McFarland’s goes through the steps of filing with the county where the death occurred (even if that location is far away). Because of Tryon’s proximity to South Carolina, McFarland’s staff works in nearby Greenville and Spartanburg counties.
Also, because so many Polk County residents are U.S. service veterans, McFarland’s has a special protocol, Keller pointed out, noting that veterans are entitled to many provisions often unknown by family members.
“We work closely with Western North Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Black Mountain,” Metcalf remarked. “We coordinate all that for the family. We try to commemorate the loved one in the way that the family would want.”
That also includes working closely with the Polk County Honor Guard, which “we are blessed to have,” said Metcalf.
Part of the community service offered by McFarland’s took place last week, when they, along with Stott’s Ford, paid for students’ lunches at Polk County Middle School on Friday. Last year, McFarland’s paid for a day’s worth of lunches at Polk County High School.
In addition, the company works closely with Foothills Humane Society and Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry, and promotes Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “We try to show our support,” Metcalf emphasized. Last year, McFarland’s made a donation to the Elizabeth Reilly Breast Center in Hendersonville.
McFarland’s also owns Polk Memorial Gardens in Columbus.
“That is a blessing,” Metcalf noted, “to have the only perpetual care cemetery in Polk County.”
At McFarland’s, Metcalf and Sean McKaig are funeral directors, while Metcalf also serves as general manager, part owner and partner. Megan Smith serves as office manager. Dennis Graham is a funeral assistant.
Metcalf noted that McFarland’s works with about 170 families per year.