McFarland Funeral Home has been a staple in the Owensboro community for more than half a century. The Black-owned and women-led business has been operating under the slogan of ‘Friendly and Courteous Service to All’ since its inception.
The full-service funeral home was created in 1968 by the late Rev. R.L. McFarland, Sr. and his wife Ruby T. McFarland, who remains marginally active in the business today. Ruby, who will celebrate her 101st birthday this July, now shares ownership with her son Alison, who takes pride in upholding the home’s deep-rooted values in trust and community.
“Our slogan is our lifeblood,” said Alison McFarland, who is also a licensed funeral director. “It’s what keeps us popular and in-demand. This industry can often become too industrialized. We want to provide personal and up-close attention to families during their time of need with friendly, courteous service to all.”
The funeral home first opened its doors on W. 7th Street in 1968, during a time when McFarland said Black individuals in the community sometimes struggled to find the friendly and courteous service they desired. Constant growth forced the home to move to a location on W. 8th Street, where they stayed until moving into their current spot on 1001 W. 5th St. in 2006.
“As I recall, the need was so profound that my father had to reschedule the initial open house on several occasions,” McFarland said. “The level of trust my parents have created is very important — that and the community are what make us unique.”
The funeral home operates with several family members on-call and readily available to give of their time and services. One such family member is Kim Edwards, who constantly strives to embrace a “serving mentality.”
“This is my passion — understanding and empathizing with people in their time of need,” Edwards said. “You have to have a heart for people that extends beyond your desire to serve.”
R. L. McFarland served as pastor at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church until the time of his death, along with a lengthy stint as an Owensboro city commissioner.
He managed the finances at the funeral home and offered spiritual services and counseling, while Ruby oversaw the day-to-day operations as a licensed embalmer and funeral director. One of her specialties was restorative arts, where she would restructure faces to resemble the deceased at the time of their death.
Alison’s brother Dwight also served as a licensed embalmer and funeral director for many years, a role that now belongs to Kayla Norton, who joined the operation in March of this year. While not related by blood, Norton finds value in the family culture that Ruby McFarland played such a pivotal role in instilling and preserving.
“It’s awesome what Ruby did. There were two distinct communities and she made sure that services were equitable,” she said. “I stand behind Mrs. Ruby and her efforts; we are all striving to uphold her values in all that we do.”
The present location features state-of-the-art technology and while it doesn’t replace the traditional in-person experience, it lessened the burden of navigating through a pandemic. One offering that was the result of the pandemic was the ability to stream services, a feature that McFarland’s will continue to offer.
“We are here to offer personal attention to families going through one of the worst things in their life,” Norton said. “We want everyone in the community to know that we are here to work with them and care for them during their time of need.”