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Funeral home to remain open under new owners

Brooks Funeral Home will not close, but its ownership and name will change.

Michael Lyon, president and managing funeral director for Watkins-Cooper-Lyon Funeral Home in Clarksville, said earlier this week he expects the contract to be signed today, when Brooks Funeral Home of South Boston will become Brooks Lyon Funeral Home. 

Last month, Brooks Funeral Home owner Cathy Comer announced, “As of March 31, 2014 Brooks Funeral Home, Inc. will no longer be in business,” citing economic reasons. 

However, until Lyon signs on the dotted line, Brooks Funeral Home will remain open with no disruption in service, the new owner said.

Lyon, along with his wife, Jane, signed a letter of intent to buy the business from Brooks’ current owners, Gene and Cathy Comer, last month.

The letter of intent recognizes both parties “share a mutual desire to continue the business and to continue to serve the residents of South Boston.” 

His funeral home business has a long-standing relationship with American National Bank, Lyons said, adding the local bank will be financing the transaction.   

Lyon assures the community the funeral home located at 115 Main Street in South Boston will continue to remain open with Brooks Funeral Home staff providing services until the deal is finalized. 

After everything is official, Lyon said he will continue to honor any pre-arranged funeral services with Brooks. 

Brooks Lyon Funeral Home will join Watkins-Cooper-Lyon Funeral Home, located in Clarksville, as well as Lancaster Funeral and Cremation Services in Louisburg, N.C. and the marketing for Oakhurst Cemetery in Clarksville under Lyon’s ownership and management.

The Comers, Gene and Cathy, will “exit the funeral service” when Lyon assumes ownership and the funeral home becomes Brooks Lyon Funeral Home. 

According to Lyon, Gene and Cathy Comer “desire to exit the funeral service but will continue offering advice” to families served. 

Other Brooks Funeral Home staff will be interviewed for job opportunities under the new management. 

“We want to provide an opportunity for all to remain,” said Lyon. “We are not looking to use non-residents of South Boston. We want those who now work and live in South Boston.” 

 The new owner also is excited about the location of the funeral home calling the surrounding area the “culture hub of Halifax.” 

“We are excited about the proximity with Constitution Square, The Prizery and the Southern Virginia Higher Ed Center located nearby. That really is the culture center of Halifax County,” said Lyon.

He plans to see how the structure of the funeral home can contribute to this “culture hub” visually and aesthetically. 

The structure, located at on the corner of Seymour Drive and Main Street, also will undergo renovations.

Lyon said currently there is no effective way for the upper level of the building to be used. 

“We are currently evaluating the business. Fifty percent of the building is modern, and the other 50 percent is very dated. We need to look at modernizing a large portion of the facility,” he added.

At this point, Lyon said until he and his wife are able to gain full access to the building, “only then can we determine what we need for the facility.” 

Bringing their services to South Boston is not a foreign or uncommon practice for Watkins-Cooper-Lyon Funeral Home, as they have previously served South Boston residents in their other locations.

In addition to Lyon and his wife’s circle of friends in Halifax County, their ties to the county also extend to Lyon serving on the Halifax Regional Health System Board of Directors and his wife working with the health system as a community representative. 

Lyon sees Halifax County and Mecklenburg County as a “blended community” that should not be separated by a county line. 

 “This is not a Mecklenburg owner owning a Halifax County company. Halifax County staffing will be present. People right there in the community will be operating this firm,” said Lyon. 

The staff will be a “blended staff” with Lyon using a portion of his current staff along with new hires. He hopes to have the staff composed of at least 30 members who will share coverage. 

This shared coverage will mean “less burn out and rotation of coverage providing an opportunity to be better served.” 

Providing service is the name of the game for the new funeral home owners, and Lyon said Brooks Lyon Funeral Home clientele can expect to see special price points offered for veterans. 

His nephew, a U.S. Army captain, has inspired Lyon and given him great passion to educate people on the benefits offered to veterans. 

According to Lyon, the offers provided to veterans could include the price coverage of grave space, a burial vault, the manpower to open and close a grave, and a monument provided for the veteran and their spouse. 

However, Lyon said in order to receive the benefits the funeral service must be provided at a national cemetery. 

“It may be an inconvenience to go to a national cemetery, but our job is one of inconvenience. We are constantly working diligently to find ways to help families. Our own convenience has to be shelved,” said Lyon. 

The funeral business also will be using their “price point purchasing power to purchase funeral products at larger discount prices” to offer more attractive prices.  

Lyon said he and his wife chose to acquire Brooks Funeral Home because he feels in order for his business to survive it has to become larger. 

He also said his family has been “successful in rescuing businesses from consolidators. 

“I want to prevent absorption of independently owned funeral homes by large corporations with management in Houston, Texas or some far away location,” said Lyon. 

As Lyon works to finalize all transactions, he will continue to determine what areas of the business need attention in order to develop an action plan and to move forward in a timely manner. 

He says he is optimistic it will be completed within a month.