Losing a loved one is the hardest thing a person will have to deal with in their lifetime.
Operating in Hillsville since 1952, Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady Chapel takes pride in trying to make the most difficult time in a person’s life as least stressful as possible. It is an ability that comes as second nature to the employees of Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady Chapel, who have well more than a century of experience in the field. Manager Tony Mullins has served as a funeral director at the Hillsville funeral home since 1986, and funeral director Don Yonce has been with the company for over 50 years. Other staff members include Office Manager Marsha Caudill has nearly 14 years of experience at VGM, Dale Shockley, employed since 2008, Richard Munsey, since 2010, Anthony Edwards, since 2013, C. Adam Baumgardner, since 2014, and Tyler Byrd, most recently hired in 2017.
“That is well over 100 years of experience and that means a lot. You know you are dealing with someone who has done this for a long time,” Mullins said. “It feels good when a family calls and says they want certain ones to do something, that they have that much confidence in us to do something. We try to make it as easy as possible for the families. It’s a difficult position to be in, but no matter what card you are dealt, we do the best we can to make it easier for the families.”
And while that philosophy of helping families will never change, Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady continues to upgrade its facility and levels of service. The funeral home has completed several renovations over the years. The biggest had been the addition of a crematory in 2016. It is one that has been well-received by both the community and the employees of VGM.
“It is an asset to the community and it has done well. It has been used quite a bit,” Mullins said. “Before we had the crematory, we would have to go to Radford to a funeral home for that service. It has been a great addition to the funeral home. Loved ones don’t have to lose time waiting because everything stays right here. Cremation also gives you a lot more control over time because you don’t have to have the service so quick. We have a family that has set a date for in May. A lot of families like it because of the convenience it offers.”
Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady currently employs eight full-time workers, three of which are funeral service interns, and three part-timers. Four of its employees are crematory operators and there are six total between the Guynn Corporation, which includes Vaughan Guynn in Galax. Vaughan Guynn and Reins-Sturdivant in Independence also utilize the crematory in Hillsville. Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady carries 25 to 30 urns at all times, even biodegradable urns.
“The customization is unlimited. There are all kinds of different styles and sizes,” Mullins said.
“Lots of families want a little urn or a keepsake, and we do that now,” Caudill added. “We had a family last week that had five different urns.”
With cremations, sometimes there are certain things like medical equipment that can’t be cremated. Mullins said the funeral home does not feel right about profiting on such items.
“There are companies that buy those kinds of items because they will just not cremate fully. We take that money and we always donate it back to the community,” Mullins said. “This year we sent it to the Carroll County Ministerial Food Bank at the Methodist Church.”
Very few families want a “traditional” funeral service anymore, so Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady works with them to make sure they receive the service they want. Almost everyone has some sort of personalization added to the service of their loved one.
“It’s not as straightforward as it used to be, but that’s what we’re here for,” Mullins said.
Not only does Mullins bring more than three decades of experience as a funeral director, he is highly respected among his peers. In recent years, he has served as President of the Blue Ridge Funeral Directors Association and has been named the Funeral Director of the Year for the entire state of Virginia.
Technology continues to make things faster and simpler for families, Caudill said. Families can now send in obituaries for their loved ones, making things go faster and with fewer mistakes. The funeral home now takes credit card payments, another convenience for customers. With the additional of electronic death certificates in 2014, Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady can now have death notices back to the family in just a few days in many cases, sometimes even before funeral services are completed.
Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady also has a wide selection of caskets available to fit most every need and most every budget. In total, the funeral home’s showroom features approximately 35 caskets, but hundreds more are available online. The most important thing is finding a casket and a service that fits the budget of the family.
“We can do anything a family wants as far as that goes, but I always tell them to select within their budget because they have to live, too,” Mullins said. “It is so stressful when they come in and you just try to do the best you can for them. I think our job is to try to help them understand you can have a $6,000 funeral or you can have a funeral that costs thousands and thousands of dollars.”
For families that don’t have insurance, the funeral home does offer in-house financing. Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady strives to have options for every situation and help every person in their time of need.
“We are honored that we can do that. People from Carroll County have given us a lot of trust,” Mullins said. “And we have done several funerals in the last two or three months out of town. It is not uncommon. I was in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago. I have been to Arlington, Salem, Durham, wherever we need to go.”
Caudill said Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady also works on pre-payment plans for families. It’s something most people don’t want to think about it, but also something that can be immensely helpful in the future.
“A lot of times it is just letting the family know what you want. It is good to do that and to talk about things,” Caudill said. “It is helpful and I think it provides a sense of comfort when you go ahead and start making arrangements. People need to think about these things and realize that this is something they are going to face at some point in time. I know things come up unexpectedly that you can’t control, but it is something that is good to talk about.”
Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady is located at 1035 North Main Street in Hillsville. You may reach the funeral home by calling (276) 728-2041.