SWARTZ CREEK — A central fireplace, cathedral ceilings and ample, comfortable seating create a calming ambiance in the lobby of the new Sharp Funeral Home which opened Aug. 12, some 15 months after fire destroyed the former chapel in downtown Swartz Creek.
Founder Roger Sharp, his family and employees, invite the public to view the new building during an open house from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8.
The new facility measures 18,500 square feet, about 30 percent larger than the old funeral home, and features a stone and cement board façade.
“It’s just lovely, and functional,” said Michael Scully, Sharp’s business partner and director of operations. “It was built to be a funeral home, whereas the old one was a home at one time, and it had had a couple of additions. It’s great to be in here finally; there’s nothing like home.”
The funeral home offers five chapels, or two very large chapels when the walls are tucked in. Each room has monitors so family members can show video memorials of their loved ones, or stream services for relatives who are unable to attend in person.
There also is a very large lounge with kitchen facilities, and a porch with seating out front.
Sharp said it feels “wonderful” to finally have the funeral home open after heavy rains, severe snowstorms and extremely cold temperatures caused numerous delays.
He added that he appreciates the community’s patience while he and his staff worked from temporary quarters at Hill Creek Church. And he is pleased that he was not forced to lay off a single employee during the reconstruction.
Sharp has said there was never any question that he would rebuild on the site where the Sharp Funeral Home legacy began 50 years ago.
“This is home,” Sharp said. “I was born in Swartz Creek, on a little farm on Grand Blanc Road. I went to Mary Crapo school, and I’d go to Osborne’s store to buy penny candy, and I’d look across at the (Bendle Funeral Home).”
Harry and Rose Osborne operated Ozzie’s, a little general store and gas station with a single gas pump, at 8151 Miller Road, then also known as M-78, one of the main routes from Flint to Chicago.
Ivan and Eleanor Bendle had opened the funeral chapel at 8138 Miller Road in 1934, having moved from their original location at the corner of Miller Road and Ford Street.
Sharp said he had once asked his grandfather, a farmer, what he should be when he grew up, and his grandfather said, “Anything but a farmer.” Soon after, a tragic event led him to his calling.
“The little boy who lived on the next farm over died,” Sharp said. “He died of appendicitis; he was only 3 or 4 years old. I was 14 or 15 at the time. I went in there (the Bendle chapel), and here was this little guy. And I saw how Mr. Bendle was taking care of people and helping people, and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Sharp purchased the funeral home from the Bendles in 1969.
With such deep roots in the community, Sharp said he plans to keep on working from his office in Swartz Creek. Although he would rather not have gone through the difficulties of the past 15 months, he is pleased with the outcome.
“I’m kind of proud of this place,” he said.
Sharp also has funeral chapels in Fenton, Linden and Grand Blanc Township.