If the new owners of the Hughes-Ransom Mortuary could send one message, it would be that the 100-year-old funeral home is no longer in receivership.
We want people to know its back, its back in the family, were here to stay, said Kerri Wright, sister of new owner Todd Slack, and a funeral director and embalmer at Hughes-Ransom.
The funeral home had gone into receivership last March and was listed for sale after a dispute was filed by creditor Columbia State Bank.
According to previous owner, Larry Peterson, in an interview with The Daily Astorian last year, the business had become more challenging for him after a series of health issues, a bad economy and changing desires in funeral services.
That article in November about the situation at the funeral home put it on the radar of Slack and his family.
When we saw the article, (with the headline) Will Hughes-Ransom have their 100th year? it was really sad because its always been (a part of) our family, Wright said. One of us has always worked here. We couldnt see it close its doors.
Two weeks ago, after months of consideration, they acquired the keys to building.
The family had long had connections to the funeral home.
Slack, who owns and operates the Major Family Funeral Home with his wife, Joy, in Springfield, started in the funeral industry at Hughes-Ransom 20 years ago. His uncle had purchased the funeral home and offered him a chance to become an apprentice. For two years, he lived and worked in Astoria, learning his trade.
Wright and her husband, Eric, had also worked at Hughes-Ransom off and on over the past 20 years. Kerri Wright started as an apprentice at the facility. She returned in 2000 and worked until her first child was born in 2004. Eric Wright, also a funeral director and embalmer, worked there from 2000 until a few years ago. The couple returned to the area with their two children from Portland.
Weve been here through many different owners actually our uncle owned it at one time, we worked for him; a corporation bought it, we worked for the corporation; Larry Peterson bought it, we worked for Larry, Kerri Wright said.
In addition to Slack and the Wrights, are Todds wife, Joy, and their brother, Jesse, who also will work at the funeral home.
I was a little bit nervous about staffing, but we have the family Eric, Kerris husband, is a funeral director and embalmer; Kerris a funeral director and embalmer; Im the same; my wife, Joy, is a funeral director. Then we have Jesse, my brother, whos an insurance agent, and Im an insurance agent for funding arrangements, Slack said. Were all unique in different ways.
Anytime anyone walks through the door theyll be meeting with a member of the family, Wright said.
Todd and Joy Slack will split their time between Hughes-Ransom and their funeral home in Springfield, while the others will be in the community full time.
Slack said the name will remain the same in fact, he said, he loves the name. The only thing that will be changing is a stronger focus on celebration of life ceremonies and upgrades to both facilities in Seaside and Astoria.
I brought a lot of things from Springfield, like computer systems for printing, he said. We can do all in-house printed material, which is really nice for creating celebrations of life, video tributes, celebrants that personalizes the services, all the flower stands. Everything thats been working in Springfield I moved down here.
As for challenges, improving both facilities and changing recent negative perceptions will be at the top of the list, Wright and Slack said.
What were bringing is really being positive, Slack said. Were known for really taking care of the deceased. Thats how Ive grown that business.
In the coming months, they are planning to host an open house and remodel the Seaside and Astoria locations to upgrade technology while maintaining the charm.
Slack said he feels an obligation to founder E.B. Hughes to make sure the business continues to serve the community to the highest possible standards.
Ive got about six years in the area, Slack said. Weve always been here. Were not going to hire anybody thats unlicensed or not family. ... We want to put our hearts into it and do the best.