STRASBURG – Marty White joined a short list in a long history earlier this month when he purchased Stover Funeral Home from Stanley Morehead.
Throughout its 140-year history, Stover Funeral Home has only had four general managers, including White — who moved to Strasburg 12 years ago and has been in the mortuary business for 26 years.
“There’s a legacy that started here in 1878 which is still here today,” White said. “We are honored to say that we have now taken the reigns of that and will continue that legacy for this community.”
White’s journey from a kitchen in Abingdon, Virginia, to Stover Funeral Home in Strasburg, was an interesting ride, he said.
When his grandmother died in 1993, White was working as a chef, he said. He took a large part in preparing for her service, which attracted the attention of the funeral director. Over lunch, he said he thought it was strange asked by the director if he would be interested in joining him in the mortuary business.
White hemmed and hawed at first, but ended up taking a 30-day leave of absence from work to try his hand at what became his second career.
White wasn’t trained in mortuary science, so he went to school and got a degree, specializing in reconstruction.
“While you’re there, you basically learn the art side and the science side of the industry,” White said. “You go through labs that teach you technique, things we do to create normalism.”
Creating normalism, not only for the deceased but for families mourning loved ones, is all part of what a funeral director does, White said. His job begins when someone calls to tell him a loved one has died.
White’s friendly, welcoming demeanor and natural talent for making visitors comfortable are skills he said are invaluable when helping families dealing with losing a loved one.
“You do have to kind of separate yourself from some of the emotional attachment but yet be able to engage with that family to accommodate their needs and be able to flow whichever level that is,” White said. “basically they’re looking to you to make this happen. We are the funeral director so we are here to direct them, lead them, guide them from ‘point A’ to the cemetery.”
That line from “point A” to the cemetery is rarely straight and, White said, has become more and more windy over the years. No two funerals are alike, he said, and some stray more from tradition than others.
One funeral featured pizza and beer in red solo cups, White said.
White said he doesn’t want to draw lines around people’s ideas, but he does serve as a counterbalance and another set of eyes and ears on plans.
“It doesn’t bother me when someone comes in and says we don’t want a traditional funeral,” he said. “We just don’t want them to turn into circuses.”
Over the years, Stover Funeral Home has operated as an extended family of sorts for Strasburg residents and that, White said, is what he plans on carrying on doing. For White, owning the funeral home is more than a business opportunity or another step in his career, it is a chance to capture something he rarely sees anywhere else.
“There is a little treasure that’s still hidden here in the valley,” White said, “that we still cling to and try to hold on to — and that’s the people. The true culture of this area is what makes this place as good as it is.”