The newest recipient of Outlook’s Business of the Year award is one that may cause some heads or eyes to turn for a moment, but when you think about it, it only makes sense for this long-time business to be recognized within the community for the service that it offers people in their greatest time of emotional need.
The Outlook Funeral Chapel, managed by Floyd and Marjorie Childerhose, is entering its 31st year in the town’s business community whilst under their direction. While it certainly takes a unique person to enter into their line of profession, the two of them have been providing their services to people in the Outlook area and beyond with compassion, sympathy and finesse for many years.
As is the case with most award winners, Floyd and Marjorie were shocked when they received the news that they were receiving the honor.
“We’re totally shocked,” said Marjorie.
“We didn’t even know we were in the running,” said Floyd. “Suddenly we got a phone call from Mrs. Petryshyn, and she said ‘You’ve been nominated as Business of the Year’. We were very surprised, and what an honor!”
“It’s a business that people normally don’t really want to talk about, and so we would never think that anyone would bother to put us in for this,” continued Marjorie. “They use our facilities and expertise and then go away because it’s been a difficult time for them, but it’s an honor.”
People have seen the Childerhoses “at work” by way of presiding over countless funeral services in Outlook and communities that dot the local landscape, but Floyd and Marjorie’s approach to their work is that they prefer to be in the background as much as possible because such a service is all about providing for a grieving family. For Marjorie, working in the funeral business wasn’t what she had in mind for her future, even though her own father was a funeral director. However, life had a way of pushing her towards it after spending 15 years at a law firm and with previous plans to become a lawyer.
For Floyd, it’s something that has been deep-rooted in him from a young age.
“I started fifty years ago as a young lad,” said Floyd. “When I ushered at my first funeral, I didn’t have my driver’s license yet!”
“His dad was a pastor, so the funeral director said, ‘You’re used to being in church, so do you want to become an usher for us?’,” said Marjorie. “He got comfortable and liked it ever since.”
“That’s how it worked,” continued Floyd. “Called on a Thursday and said, ‘Can you help me on Saturday at a little out-of-town country church?’, and right from the get-go my mother said, ‘There’s a job for you, Floyd.’ I liked it right from the very first Saturday that I helped usher.”
What’s key about operating a funeral home and working with people who are grieving is to have a big heart and know to be delicate in such an emotional situation for people.
“We really care about the people,” said Marjorie. “If you don’t have a caring heart, you shouldn’t be doing this. You really want to help someone feel better and make the best of a really bad time.”
Around town, both Floyd and Marjorie keep themselves busy with ventures such as Equinox Theatre and the community choir, and they enjoy the regional park and the river as favorite spots to take in during the summer. And of course, those that know Floyd best would probably describe him as one of Outlook’s most outgoing and personable people with a sharp wit. Those kind of characteristics are things that Childerhose hopes people engage with if they need an emotional chain to grab onto.
“If I do have a sense of humor, I’m thankful for that,” he said. “We try to cheer people up when we can, but yet be very serious and compassionate when we need to be. I hope that with both of us, we have a God-given gift that says we’ve been gifted to care for people who have lost someone. Right now, both of us can’t help but think of the trauma that’s happening over in Humboldt. We’ve even seen it here last year, as we were dealing with drownings and traumatic deaths. Funeral homes get involved, and we consider it quite an honor to be part of that compassion trip.”
What motivates Floyd and Marjorie in their tasks as business owners is to provide whatever a grieving family may need during a time of great emotional vulnerability. In a further-detailed email to this reporter following our formal interview, the Childerhoses touched on the importance of honoring and commemorating someone’s life after it has ended, as well as how small communities band together in times of great sorrow.
“We are here, first and foremost, to serve whatever needs a family might have,” they wrote. “They tell us what they want and we do our best to accommodate them at a very difficult time. We place a lot of value on human life and on commemorating a life once it ends. Our training, continuing education and our own personal experience has made us keenly aware of the importance of stopping to gather, to grieve and to remember. The funeral or other ritual or gathering is about the person who passed away, but it is for those left behind. We believe that if you deny the grief, you are denied the comfort. Everyone sees the importance of compassion and support at times of great loss, such as in the Humboldt tragedy, but really, anyone who loses a loved one needs the same thing, only perhaps on a different scale. What makes communities strong is their ability to share the good times and the bad. Everyone’s life deserves to be honored in some way. It is always heartwarming to see people supporting each other and that is one of the wonderful things about living in small town Saskatchewan.”
One of the unique traits about their business that may differ from others in town is that it requires Floyd and Marjorie to have a close involvement with the people who require their services; feeling something of an oath to be there for absolutely anything they may need. The end result is a professional and personal dedication that is unlike perhaps any other.
“One of the things we talked about after you left, was how a business like ours in a small town requires our personal involvement 24/7,” they wrote. “We feel personally responsible to be here for people whenever they might need us. We have formed relationships with so many over the years and don’t want to let them down at a difficult time. What that looks like is that we haven’t been on a phone-free vacation in over 30 years. Our family holidays consisted of trips to Saskatoon, or occasionally to West Edmonton Mall or to the lake, “if nobody dies”, as our children put it, and always with the knowledge that a quick trip back home could be necessary if the phone rang. That is perhaps different than most businesses in town.”
Any business owner has to sit back at times and think about what he/she gets out of it. For Floyd and Marjorie, it can be the littlest of things that show them how rewarding their careers are.
“I think it’s rewarding on a level we don’t even appreciate,” said Marjorie. “I don’t know how we could’ve kept doing this if we didn’t feel rewarded by it somehow. I think a lot of times, we don’t even notice it until we get a little thank-you in the mail sometimes. We want to be in the background, but it’s rewarding to think you made a difference in someone’s hard time.”
As long-time residents and business owners in Outlook, it’s the people and what the town offers that Floyd and Marjorie point to as being the community’s most attractive qualities if someone new were to live here and set up shop for another local business. The Childerhoses have found it rewarding to serve people that they know, as well as perfect strangers by meeting people from all walks of life in communities all around the area.
“It’s about the people,” said Marjorie. “Everybody is involved in something, and we are too, whether it’s Equinox Theatre or the choir. You can do something and get involved. We’re not lonely here at all. It’s a friendly community, and the key is getting involved; that’s what I’d tell someone coming in to Outlook.”
The Outlook Funeral Chapel will be honored as the 2017 Business of the Year along with the Citizen, Youth and Group of the Year recipients at the Community Appreciation Awards banquet on Wednesday night, April 18 at the Outlook Civic Centre.