The following history was originally written by Hallie C. Lane for the 100 year anniversary of the original Lane Funeral Home in Mineral Ridge. It was continued and expanded upon by Joseph O. Lane for use at the time of the open house which followed the building of the new Mineral Ridge Funeral Home on the original site. The current form of this history is a composite. It was continued by the current President and CEO, Joseph D. Lane.
William H. Burford, the funeral home's founder, was born in Swansea, Glamorganshire, Wales, in March, 1813. He was educated in the Swansea Academy, and the Carmarthen Academy, also at the Academy of Bristol, England. At one time, he studied for the ministry, but decided against that. He was apprenticed to a linen draper at Carmarthen and after thoroughly learning the trade, he secured a situation in London and worked there and in other places for a number of years. He had determined to emigrate to this country and locate in Texas, but did not at that time. Preferring another trade he learned, that of cabinet making. He finished this trade at 27, and for about three years subsequently was engaged as a teacher in the country schools and was usher in the grammar schools at Swansea. On February 6, 1849, he was married to Mary E. Jenkins, by whom he had three children; William R., Sarah Louisa and Maggie E. Two years after his marriage, he emigrated to America finally settling in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he lived for six years. In the fall of 1855, he came to Mineral Ridge and engaged in the manufacturing of furniture and undertaking. He was a member of the Episcopal Church and of the society, Temple of Honor, in politics a prohibitionist. He was assisted by his son, William R., who conducted the business until his death in 1912.
W. R. Burford, who succeeded his father, W. H. Burford, and mother, M. E. Burford, in 1884, married Margaret Daniels Lane in 1887. She had moved to Mineral Ridge following the death of her first husband in Australia. Out of this wedlock were born W. H. Burford, deceased (1947); Frank Burford, deceased (1900); Edgar Burford, California; Mrs. Sadie Burford White, Youngstown; Daniel Burford, Niles (all deceased). A stepson, Joseph Burford Lane, succeeded his stepfather in the business in 1912. Joseph Burford Lane, later known as J. B. Lane, married Hallie Woolf Cline in 1913 and they had three children; Mrs. Charlotte Flickinger, Mrs. Marguerite Bowden and Joseph O. Lane. J. B. Lane, in his years as owner of the firm, built what would be the second building on the Mineral Ridge location, and converted from the combined furniture and undertaking business to providing funeral service only in 1934.
In these early days, a call to a home, where a death had occurred 45 years ago in this area, first meant going to the barn. After groping in the darkness for the harness to hitch up the horse to a wagon, there were placed in the wagon the necessary materials for embalming at the deceased's home. Caskets were mainly cloth covered wood and the "undertaker", as he was known, bought silk linings by the roll and tacked them into the casket. Many times friends dug the grave. As there were no automobiles, an order for "cabs" was given to the livery stable. The horse drawn hearse was very ornate with handsome glass lamps at each side and heavy fringed draperies of black broadcloth.
Funerals were held usually at the home, and sometimes at a church, as actual funeral homes had not yet been established. Always after a funeral, the relatives and friends from a distance stayed for a meal cooked by friends of the family.
The undertaker wore what was at that time called a Prince Albert suit and a derby hat. At the cemetery, the casket was lowered into the grave by straps instead of the mechanical lowering device used today.
Two periods in the history of the business were fraught with great danger.
First, about 1902, a case of small pox was brought into the town. A public funeral was held and many people exposed died. Mineral Ridge was subsequently quarantined, and not even mail could be sent or received.
Fear was contagious. No one could be secured to help bury the dead. Burials had to be made as soon as possible. The late W. R. Burford, son of the founder, recalled on moonlit night when he read a prayer over a small pox patient's grave in Riverside Cemetery as a sole assistant sat by him - the only man Burford could call on to help.
The local doctor kept extra clothes on the back porch of his home and changed after he had made each round of his small pox patients.
The second crisis came some years later when "Spanish Influenza" struck. Sometimes whole families were stricken and there was no one to help as the disease was considerably contagious so the people feared to enter a home where someone was ill.
J. B. Lane who carried on the business from 1912 to 1950 became ill of flu while conducting a funeral. He said later he saw six hearses instead of one and couldn't remember how to start his car when he went to head the procession. He, however, survived to serve those families who were not so lucky.
World War I was in progress and the disease struck the camps. Reports came that the box encased caskets were piled in tiers for shipment home. Illness could be just as deadly as battle.
Schools and all available buildings were used for hospitals. One nurse said that by the time she had taken the temperatures, several patients would have died.
As mentioned earlier, the Mineral Ridge Funeral Home was first opened in 1934 as a purely funeral home facility. Following the great depression, the decision had been made to dedicate the home to the providing of funerals and not sales of furniture.
Ownership of the business in Mineral Ridge was assumed by Joseph O. Lane upon the death of his father, Joseph Burford Lane, on September 14, 1950. The business was continuously operated from that location until 1957, when two parallel properties were purchased on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown, across from the old Fitch High School. The lots together measured 176 feet frontage on Route 18 and were 495 feet in depth. They housed a small restaurant and a duplex. In 1959, the duplex was moved to the left rear of the property and the old restaurant was torn down. On this spot, the Austintown Chapel of Lane Funeral Homes was constructed in 1959, initially a rather small structure, but modern and with no steps. In 1965, a large addition featuring three additional rooms was added. In 1970, a single room was added to enlarge one of the original chapels. In 1974, extensive remodeling took place, additions were made to each side of the original building and the entire interior was redecorated and refurnished. This made it possible to have visiting hours for five families at the same time.
Also in 1974, the Williams Funeral Home was purchased establishing a third location known as the Lane-Williams Funeral Home, Canfield. It continued to operate under that name until 1984, when it was changed to the Lane Funeral Homes, Canfield Chapel. This acquisition made Lane the only firm with three locations in the tri-county area. The Canfield Chapel was completely remodeled in 2004.
Ambulance service had existed as a by-product of having a vehicle that someone could lie down in! Other than a light, cot and oxygen and the ability to provide basic first aid, little care was available. A commitment to change that situation was begun in 1978. That year, three employees attended paramedic school in Cleveland. These men were to eventually be the first functioning paramedics in Mahoning County setting a standard that other ambulance providers would eventually attain. Subsequently, the Lane Paramedic Emergency Ambulance Service was formed and later was incorporated as the Lane LifeTrans Paramedic Ambulance. Initiation of this service grew out of our sincere concern for the local population. It was a way of giving something positive back to the community. It meant hours of training by our staff to reach paramedic status, and it meant purchasing only the most sophisticated equipment and vehicles. Advanced life support is a reality in our area and we are proud of the fact that we, at Lane LifeTrans, made it possible to offer this type of service. Lane LifeTrans now covers over 150 square miles in two counties, employing 80+ employees and is the contracted provider of 911 services for Austintown Township.
In 1977, Lane Funeral Homes became the franchise holder of Rock of Ages Monuments in the Mahoning County area. A memorial display is maintained at the Austintown Funeral Home and many memorial monuments are now sold through this division of Lane Funeral Homes. Walter Sinn, a licensed funeral director and also the Executive Vice-President of Lane Funeral Homes, is in charge of this division.
In December of 1980, the property adjacent to the Austintown Chapel was purchased and a new building was built. The building was originally a flower shop, but now provides facilities for not only a flower shop, but also as the Lane Administrative Offices for Lane Funeral Homes, Inc. and Lane LifeTrans.
In March of 1981, ground was broken to build a new funeral home in Mineral Ridge, replacing the structure that had been built as a furniture store in 1924, and converted to a funeral home in 1933. This is the third structure built on this corner which goes back to 1855 when William H. Burford came to Mineral Ridge from Wales and established a cabinet shop and simple undertaking business. To prepare the site, Joseph O. Lane's mother's home had to be moved. Hallie Lane had resided there to the age of ninety, passing away in April of 1980. Her home was moved to the rear of the funeral home lot facing West Liberty Street and currently serves as the Operations Office for Lane LifeTrans. The foundation for the new funeral home was poured in July of 1981 and opened officially in May, 1982. Late in the year of 2001, this Mineral Ridge location was again remodeled.
In 2002, after the death of Joseph O. Lane, a fifth generation of leadership was assumed by Joseph D. Lane, also an attorney, who had established and developed the Lane LifeTrans Paramedic Ambulance Service, as well as the Law Offices of Lane & Rusu Co., L.P.A. Joseph D. Lane is also an author, co-authoring the book "Smart Planning for Life and Death."
The year 2003 brought yet another change. In January, the Madasz Funeral Home in Brookfield, another family owned funeral home with a rich tradition of service to the local community, was purchased along with the crematory located on the premises. The funeral home is now known as the Lane Funeral Home, Madasz Funeral Chapel, and the Brook Park Cremation Service.
In 2005, while celebrating its 150th year, three more funeral homes were acquired in Trumbull County, bringing the total number of Lane Funeral Homes to seven. The funeral homes acquired were formerly the Robert H. Roberts-Clark Memorial Home in Warren, the Shafer-Winans & Lamer Funeral Home in Cortland and the Reese Wynn Winyard McDermott-Laird Funeral Home in Niles, and are now known as the Lane Funeral Home, Roberts-Clark Chapel, the Lane Funeral Home, Shafer-Winans Chapel and the Lane Funeral Home, Niles Chapel.
In August of 2011, Lane Funeral Homes acquired the Anstrom-Velker Funeral Home at 75 E. Midlothian Boulevard in Youngstown, and, like the Lane Family Funeral Homes, it was a generational family business. The funeral home was founded in 1970 from three existing firms following the death or retirement of the owners. Bob Anstrom, who became the president of Weller Funeral Home, worked there for 29 years. He joined with Bob Gustafson, who was a principal of Shriver Allison for 25 years to form Anstrom-Gustafson. In 1975, Jack Velker, with 18 years of experience, joined them to begin Anstrom-Gustafson-Velker. The Anstrom-Velker Funeral Home was owned by brothers Doug and Greg Anstrom at the time of the purchase by the Lane organization. Greg had worked for an Akron firm following graduation and joined Anstrom-Gustafson-Velker after Bob Gustafson's death in 1977. Doug joined the firm in 1980 after graduation. Greg moved to Pittsburgh in 1989 to work for Hillenbrand Industries' Forethought Group to help other funeral directors learn about the insurance backed pre-arrangement financial system, and then returned to the firm in 1996. In 1998, both Bob Anstrom and Jack Velker retired and the Anstrom brothers began the next partnership and generation of their family in funeral service. The Anstrom brothers will continue with the Lane Funeral Homes, managing the Midlothian Boulevard facility which has been renamed Lane Funeral Homes, Anstrom-Velker Chapel.
That location on Youngstown’s south side is just transitional however. In 2011, the property at 8387 Tod Avenue in Boardman was purchased and is being converted from the former Western Star Masonic Lodge building to what will be the Lane Funeral Homes, Anstrom Chapel. This facility will feature a formal chapel with seating for over 180 people and a full reception center capable of serving over 180 people as well. The facility, which is over 10,000 square feet, will have a full kitchen and coffee bar.
The addition of these facilities now allows Lane Funeral Homes, with eight locations, to serve over 1,000 families per year as well as perform several hundred cremations.
It has often been said that the success of any business is not based on the brick and mortar that make up its buildings, but in the flesh and blood of the people that toil day in and day out within its walls. That is very true with respect to the Lane Funeral Homes. Without the dedication of the many individuals who have worked for the funeral home, the success story of Lane Funeral Homes would not have been written. Lane Funeral Homes has emerged from a one funeral home, one ambulance, one employee operation, to one of the leading firms in the State of Ohio. Once again, the loyalty and faithfulness of the staff is forever appreciated. They are and always will be considered a part of the Lane Family.