The John J. Ferry & Sons Funeral Home, Inc., of 88 East Main St., Meriden, CT, has been meeting the needs of the community since it was founded in 1890. After a century of service, it remains the oldest funeral home in the city under the same family ownership and management.
In an era of frequent corporate changes and mergers, few family enterprises continue through four generations. That the Ferry Funeral Home has done so attests to its high professional standards, it’s reputation for integrity, and its well-appointed modern facilities.
A century and more ago, undertakers were drawn largely from the ranks of cabinet makers who specialized in custom-built coffins or from liverymen whose horses and carriages were available for hire for parties, weddings, and funerals. John J. Ferry was one of these liverymen. The large brick stable which he built in 1910 at 30 Pratt St. adjoins the rear of today’s modern funeral home.
As John J. Ferry’s business grew, he and his two sons, Thomas L. Ferry, Sr., and William A. Ferry formed the firm of John J. Ferry & Sons. In 1913, Thomas L. Ferry, Sr. received his diploma from the Dodge Mortuary School in Boston and was licensed as an embalmer in Connecticut. John J. Ferry died in 1918, leaving his sons to carry on the business. After William died in 1945, Thomas Ferry, Sr. became head of the firm until his death in 1961.
In June, 1946, following their discharge from the US Navy after World War II, Thomas L. Ferry, Jr., and his brother Vincent joined their father in the family business. Vincent left the business in 1954 for an investment career in New York City. In 1953 his brother John J. Ferry, who had been a navy bomber pilot in World War II, also joined the company in which he remained associated until his death in 1973. Thomas L. Ferry III, present head of the family corporation, succeeded his late father, Thomas L. Ferry, Jr.
John J. Ferry’s constant concern for his profession embraced every detail. A man of enterprise and imagination, he invented a portable candelabrum for which he was issued a U.S. patent; he also patented an improvement in casket handles. Because it could be readily assembled and taken apart, the candelabrum found wide acceptance at a time when most funeral homes were held in the home of the deceased.
Home funerals were customary even as late as the early 1920’s, but there was a growing interest in what where first called funeral parlors. The convenience of such facilities, both for the families and other mourners, soon over-came custom, sentiment, and prejudice and opened the door to the use of funeral homes.
In 1935, in the depth of the Depression, Thomas L. Ferry, Sr. bought the home of Dr. Harold L. Meeks at 88 East Main St., building an addition to the property which borders on the original Ferry livery stable, and making it the nucleus of today’s modern funeral home.
During the century that the Ferry family has been serving the needs of families in Meriden and beyond, funeral practices and customs have changed in response to changes in society itself. Modern obsequies tend increasingly toward informality. It is no longer the practice for women to go into extended periods of deep mourning. The traditional “widow’s weeds”, the black garments, veils and head coverings, are seldom seen today… men no longer wear a black crape armband to signify a recent bereavement. In 1893 the Ives, Upham and Rand Co., the city’s leading dry goods store, advertised: “Mourning Goods: A very excellent stock of Black and Mourning dress goods consisting of Tamise, Henriettas, Beatirce, Austraian Crape, Amores, Chuddas, Nun’s Cloth, Camel Hair. The line of Black Cashmeres are unexcelled for weight and beauty of finish. Single and double Black Cashmere shawls.” Crapes, or as they were sometimes called, door badges, we affixed to the front of a home where a wake was to be held. The badge was an arrangement of ribbon and flowers, white flowers for a child. It remained on the door until after the funeral; during that period the door knocker or bell was muffled.
For the last 85 years the Ferry Funeral Home has been located on the site of the Meeks property. In 1935, a funeral home chapel was constructed. In 1937 the porch and front part of the old wooden building were replaced by the present yellow brick structure.
Today the Ferry Funeral Home provides facilities to meet every need of families in time of bereavement. The two spacious air-conditioned chapels, appropriately furnished, seating 100 mourners each, can be opened into a single chapel, more than doubling the seating capacity. An Austin manual organ and professional organist are available.
Just as old customs have given away to new, so scientific advances in embalming and cosmetology have helped bring comfort and peace of mind to bereft families. Connecticut Health Department regulations provide strict standards for licensing persons practicing the mortuary profession. In full compliance with state and federal requirements, the Ferry Funeral Home provides in advance, an itemized accounting of charges for its services.
Besides Thomas L. Ferry, III, president of the firm, other members of the professional staff include his two sons – Patrick L. Ferry and Daniel T. Ferry; Craig Boyce, embalmer and funeral director, Kimaira Serpa, embalmer and funeral director, Allison McCormick, embalmer and funeral director.
John J. Ferry & Sons Inc. works closely with family and clergy of all faiths and religions without distinction of race or creed. The funeral home is familiar with these policies and regulations of all area cemeteries. Whereas cremations were once infrequent, they are becoming increasingly common in response to changing contemporary attitudes.
Another change involves the common practice of making funeral arrangements in advance. The Ferry Funeral Home is accustomed to providing help and guidance to assure that expressed wishes will be carried out, relieving uncertainty and confusion, and providing peace of mind for individuals and families. In some circumstances, arrangements made in advance are advantageous with respect to funeral cost.
For 55 years, John J. Ferry & Sons, Inc. has been a member of, by invitation, of the Order of the Golden Rule, a professional association open only to funeral homes which have demonstrated the highest professional standards and ideals of mortuary practice. The firm’s professional staff is affiliated with the Connecticut Association of Funeral Directors and the National Funeral Directors Association. By maintaining professional contact with funeral directors in other cities and states, the Ferry Funeral Home is able to facilitate whatever arrangements may be necessary.
In its 130 years of service, John J. Ferry & Sons, Inc. has earned the respect and confidence of the community and of the profession in fulfilling the ideals of its founder and in meeting the highest contemporary standards.