There will always be a consistent need for funerals and funeral homes. But that doesn’t mean members of the funeral industry don’t have to change to meet the needs of their clientele.
Rohland Funeral Home’s recent renovations and updating will allow it to keep doing what it’s been doing for the past 180 years – serve Lebanon County residents in their greatest time of need.
There is nothing more certain than death. And there is nothing more reliable than Rohland.
Over the past nine months, Rohland Funeral Home, the longest continually operating funeral home in Lebanon County and one of the locale’s longest continually running businesses period, has undergone some much needed renovations. In addition to fixing some structural abnormalities of its building at 508 Cumberland Street in Lebanon, the upgrades will provide the funeral home the flexibility needed to meet the ever-evolving needs of customers dealing with death.
Rohland Funeral Home unveiled its recent renovations to the public during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 25.
“The main focus was to address the way the facility was laid out,” said Peter Pyles, Rohland Funeral Home’s supervisor. “Through the years, funeral homes were traditionally laid out like homes, just like this one. But people are becoming less traditional, so we have to be more flexible. We’ve transitioned away from a household environment to where we can suit anyone’s vision of what a funeral should be. Our space is more versatile. It’s been updated and upgraded.
“It was necessary,” continued Pyles. “The purpose of our space hadn’t been updated in 75 years. It was time. We needed to address the need of our current customer. It addressed the changing needs of our industry.”
Rohland Funeral Home’s renovations addressed an existing elevation change in its building’s floor and eliminated the need for accommodating ramps. And by combining two rooms, it allowed Rohland to enlarge its main chapel and provide a new identification room for cremation customers to identify loved ones.
The renovations also included the enlargement of rest rooms, the addition of a second conference room, and the upgrading of lighting and chairs.
“One of the biggest improvements is that we’ll be able to better help families who choose cremations,” said Pyles. “We want to make sure the right individual is in our care. The new room that was created will allow our families to identify their loved ones in a good, serene and peaceful environment.
“Primarily, it is now a facility that is versatile and can meet any kind of needs,” added Pyles. “Our space is constructed so we can utilize it in a lot of different ways. It’s a good thing. It’s almost like a blank canvas that families can use in the ways they want to use it.”
The renovation project was a well-thought out process, one initiated by the planning of the local architectural firm of Beers and Hoffman and one brought to fruition by local contractor Arthur Funk and Sons. Pyles declined to reveal exactly how much the project cost, saying only that those costs were ‘very significant.’
“We really looked at a lot of different options,” said Pyles. “We’ve been thinking about this for ten or 15 years. We really did consider moving and getting out of this venue. But it was really important for us to stay where we are and remain one of the anchor businesses downtown. People are familiar with our current location. Another option we kicked around was building a new facility. It was a process.
“I feel I have a sense of responsibility on my shoulders,” Pyles added. “I’m from here. It’s (the funeral home) been here as long as I can remember. I want it to have the same reputation it’s always had. I think Lebanon is fortunate to have a lot of good funeral providers. We have good people running good businesses. I don’t look at it like competition.”
Rohland Funeral Home was founded in Avon in 1839, by Clint Rohland. Rohland moved the business to Fifth and Cumberland Streets downtown in the late 1800s, before selling it to M.B. Krum, whose family kept the original name and operated it well into the 20th century.
“The funeral industry has changed drastically, and it continues to change drastically,” said Pyles. “One of the biggest changes has been mobility. People don’t stay in the same town they were born in. That’s impacted the timing of services. Now everyone is scattered and dispersed. It’s changed how we operate. It’s certainly placed different types of burdens on us. Another factor is cremations.
“It’s (the meaning and importance of funerals) not an easy question to answer,” continued Pyles. “Each person would answer it differently. If you had ten people in a room and you asked them all that same question, all of them would answer it differently. And all the answers would be right. Our main purpose is to dispose of the deceased body. It’s how a person’s life is remembered. It’s for the survivors’ family members, friends and colleagues. How have their lives impacted others? You’re honoring that person by remembering them.”
In 1995, Rohland was purchased by Service Corporation International, the largest funeral company in North America. The fact that Rohland Funeral Home is no longer locally owned only increased the importance of it being community conscious.
“We all try to be involved in the community,” said Pyles. “One of the things that helps me is that I’m from here. It is a help knowing the community, knowing the expectations of the community. It’s important to be out and involved. Lebanon is full of people who donate their time for the benefit of others. We want to be a part of it, but we want to do things on a quiet basis. We’re a long-standing member of the community, and that’s why we do it.
“I want us to be perceived as one of the premiere funeral service providers in Lebanon County,” continued Pyles. “We want to take care of our families in a way they deserve to be cared for. But it is a business too. We feel if we do a good job, we’re going to remain in business.”
Rohland Funeral Home hosts 200-250 funerals every year. Each one is unique and individualized – not unlike the lives they celebrate.
“We’ve made some changes here,” said Pyles. “The industry is changing, but the level of commitment hasn’t changed. In the future, we’re moving in a direction where people are becoming more focused on events and remembrances than material goods. It’s about valuing the memories of the person who is no longer alive, not necessarily the death itself. Remembering people in the context of who they are.
“More so now than in the past, it’s easier to talk about death,” Pyles continued. “We’re taking our cues from the people we’re meeting with. If we’re good at it, we’ll be able to take those cues and meet their needs. I can talk about it openly and frankly.”
Because life is precious, so is death.
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