East Lawn Memorial Park graveyards to undergo upgrade

MARIETTA – One of the area’s older graveyards will undergo a major upgrade over the next several months as a new funeral home is to be built on the grounds of the 85-acre East Lawn Memorial Park and Valley Cemetery in Reno.

“Three of our other cemeteries also have on-site funeral homes, but this is one of our larger facilities, and we hope to have this home completed by late spring 2014,” said Alex Roberts, funeral director and trustee with Wooster-based Roberts Funeral Homes.

Alex and brothers Kirk and Jeff Roberts, who are fellow funeral directors and trustees, own the company that was founded by their father in Wooster in 1961.

The company has owned East Lawn Memorial Park and Valley Cemetery since 2001, Alex said, adding that Roberts Funeral Homes owns a total of 17 graveyards throughout Ohio.

“Construction on this facility will begin within a few weeks,” he said. “When completed the funeral home will include one large chapel, as well as a smaller chapel that will provide a more intimate setting for family services.”

Jeff Roberts said one reason the brothers decided to locate a funeral home at East Lawn Memorial Park and Valley Cemetery was local support from the community.

“This community supports the cemetery by holding veterans ceremonies here on Memorial Day and recently conducted a couple of 9-11 commemorations,” he said. “We see those types of events here more than at any of our other facilities. And this cemetery has a heritage here.”

Tony McDaniel, director of family services for East Lawn Memorial Park, noted Valley Cemetery, which is the older part of the park, was established in the early half of the 1800s.

The new funeral home will be one of only a few in the region located on or adjacent to cemeteries.

“But this is becoming a trend for funeral homes across the state,” Jeff said. “There’s one opening in the Cincinnati area right now.”

Kirk Roberts said it’s the convenience of an on-site facility that makes it so popular.

“It’s all about giving families a better experience,” he said.

Alex said one of the great advantages of a funeral home at the cemetery is that friends and families don’t have to drive through a lot of traffic from the funeral service location to the burial site, which can be a safety issue.

“I’ve seen traffic accidents occur during some funeral processions,” McDaniel added. “An on-site funeral home can eliminate that problem.”

“Some families also may not have the capability to provide pallbearers, which is something they wouldn’t have to deal with when the funeral home is right here,” said Tracy Boorom, the Roberts Funeral Home funeral director who will oversee the East Lawn facility after it’s built.

Other benefits of an on-site home include the ability to conduct funeral and cemetery-related business at one location, Alex said.

“Traditionally people will go to the funeral home to make arrangements, then they have to go to the cemetery for more arrangements,” he said. “Here we can do all of that in one place, and if the weather turns bad we can even conduct the committal service inside instead of at the graveside.”

In addition to traditional burials at East Lawn Memorial Park and Valley Cemetery, Roberts Funeral Homes provides cremation services through the company’s home location in Wooster.