Peck Funeral Home marks 75th anniversary
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
A longstanding Hartselle business is celebrating a milestone this month.
In January 1929, James "Elliotte" Peck purchased the Corsbie Hardware and Furniture Store on Main Street in downtown Hartselle and established what would become the city's longest- operating family-owned funeral home.
Seventy-five years later, Elliotte's son Robert and grandson Jim are still providing the community with comfort and support in times of need at Peck Funeral Home.
According to owner Robert Peck, much has changed in providing funeral services since his father founded the business three-quarters of a century ago.
"The hardware store had a casket display, but some families only purchased the casket handles and linings and made their own caskets," Robert recalled. "People held the visitation and funeral in their homes or at churches, and embalming was frequently done in the deceased's home. Little girls would help bring in the flowers, and they were called flower girls. Today, funeral homes provide better services and can accommodate large numbers of visitors, which gives the family a rest and a quiet place to go home to during the loss of a loved one."
A horse drawn hearse carried the deceased to their final resting-place until an automobile was purchased by Peck in 1930. More change occurred in the 1930s when the furniture store was discontinued and Peck Funeral Home expanded into its neighboring building, a time when the business also served as police headquarters, ambulance service and fire alert for the city.
"Hartselle did not have a police station and the police used the funeral home for a base of operations, and their phone was actually located in the lobby of the funeral home," Robert explained. "In those days, the funeral home also operated as an ambulance service."
A phone with a loud buzzer was also located outside the front door of the funeral home for the nearest person to answer and, if necessary, sound a siren to notify volunteer fireman of an emergency.
"The funeral home served a variety of needs in Hartselle during those years," Robert said with a smile.
In 1947, the funeral home expanded again and relocated to the former Drinkard Funeral Home on Railroad Street where it operated until it settled into its current location on Highway 31 S in 1965.
Since then, the building has been renovated and expanded to keep up with the growing and changing needs of the community.
"We have served several generations in Hartselle and across Morgan and Lawrence counties by establishing relationships with folks, providing good service, and just treating people the way we would want to be treated," Robert said. "My father had foresight and was receptive to change. My family has tried to keep his values and principles, which I think is the key to our longevity."
Robert said his father remained active in the business until his death at age 87 in 1981. Robert joined the family business upon his graduation from Auburn University in 1957, as did his son, Jim, upon his graduation from Auburn University in 1984.
The funeral home, which Robert said is one of a dwindling number of family owned, independent funeral homes left in Alabama, is owned by Robert, his wife Gail, and their son, Jim.
Jim also works in the family's insurance agency, Peck Glasgow, which was established by his grandfather, Elliotte Peck, in 1922.
The Peck's have a daughter, Jamie Host, son-in-law, Alan Host, daughter-in-law, Kim Peck, and four grandchildren.
Robert, 69, said he has no immediate plans for retirement.
"My father worked until he couldn't work anymore, and I probably will, too," Robert admitted.