Barbour & Son Funeral Home closes

November 1, 2017

Barbour & Son Funeral Home (1902-2017)
Family Tradition Rich in History and Heritage Comes to an End
By Haley Barbour Messer

Nestled in the heart of the Tollesboro community, on the north side of State Route 10, you will find Barbour and Son Funeral Home.

Clockwise from top left, Thomas Tyler Barbour, Leonard Russell Barbour, Billy Barbour and Tommy Barbour.

Clockwise from top left, Thomas Tyler Barbour, Leonard Russell Barbour, Billy Barbour and Tommy Barbour.

This local, well-known funeral home was rich in history and heritage, and was in operation for over a century, with four generations of the Barbour family involved in the business.

Sadly, the decision has been made to close its doors.

The Barbour and Son Funeral Home tradition came to an end October 31 after 115 years of service to the Tollesboro community.

The story began in the late 1800s when RL Teager opened an undertaking establishment and a casket making business on the present site of the funeral home property in Tollesboro.

It was operated by Mr. Teager until Thomas Tyler (TT) Barbour acquired ownership. TT Barbour, a merchant and long-time Burtonville postmaster, had a dream of having his funeral parlor serve the area residents in the passing of their loved ones.

He became a business partner of Teager and started living his dream in 1903 when he operated a branch of the mortuary in Burtonville.

In 1925, the two mortuaries were consolidated into one location when TT Barbour relocated his funeral home business to Tollesboro. His son, Russell Barbour, became the active head of the business then known as TT Barbour and Son Funeral Home. TT Barbour died in 1956.

In 1943, Omar Hamlin joined the operation which then became known as the Barbour-Hamlin Funeral Home.

Then, in 1947, Mr. Hamlin disposed of his one-half interest to Chelsea Merritt because he had accepted a position with State National Bank in Maysville.

In 1952, Mr. Hamlin returned to the partnership and it was renamed yet again to Barbour, Merritt, and Hamlin Funeral Home.

Both Hamlin and Merritt were licensed undertakers and embalmers during their association with the business. Mr. Hamlin was a graduate of the Melton School of Embalming in Louisville in 1929, and Mr. Merritt graduated from Louisville College in 1947.

On March 20, 1961, Mr. Hamlin sold his interest to Leonard Russell Barbour and his son, Thomas Barbour, and the business then became known as the Russell Barbour and Son Funeral Home.

Russell Barbour became a licensed funeral director and embalmer in 1922 when he graduated from the Cincinnati College of Embalming.

He conducted his first funeral at the age of 16 while working for his father, who originated the business plans in 1902.

Russell Barbour was married to the former Emma Audrey Himes, and they were the parents of six children: one son, Thomas (Tommy) Barbour; and five daughters, Iris Barbour Wallingford and her twin Doris Barbour, who died in 1931 at the age of seven, Jean Barbour Lykins, Virginia Barbour Williams, and Katherine (Tootsie) Barbour Gallenstein.

Their only son, Tommy, became Russell’s sole business partner in 1961.

Tommy graduated from Tollesboro High School and then the Kentucky School of Embalming in Louisville in 1949. Tommy became the third generation of the Barbour family to be associated with the operation.

Also affiliated with the funeral home at the time were two of Russell’s daughters, Iris and Virginia. Both were licensed beauticians. Another daughter, Tootsie, was bookkeeper for 40 years.

After Russell Barbour was in the funeral business for 50 years, the Kentucky Board of Directors Associated Industries of Kentucky honored him with an award for being established in business for half a century. He was also commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by the staff of Governor Louie Nunn.

Following Russell Barbour’s passing in 1975, the firm operated under the name of Barbour and Son Funeral Home.

Tommy Barbour married Janis Hull Barbour and to their union two children were born, Mary Beth Barbour and William Russell Barbour, better known as Billy to his friends and family.

After graduating from Tollesboro High School in 1972, Billy also felt the calling to become a funeral director and completed his studies at Morehead State University and Cincinnati College of Embalming.

Billy joined the staff in 1976, being the fourth generation to carry on the family tradition.

Billy was married to Elica Haley Barbour and they had four children, Haley Barbour, Jana Barbour Henson, Molly Barbour Hines, and Thomas Richard (Tommy) Barbour.

Rounding out the family circle are Billy’s grandchildren, Westin Messer, Cole Messer, Ryan Hines, Sawyer Barbour, Elam Barbour, Kate Henson, and Claire Henson.

Billy’s passing, after a long battle with lymphoma in 2012, was so very hard on the family, the community, and especially the business.

Barbour and Son Funeral Home is currently owned and operated by Dignity Memorial, a network of more than 1,800 funeral, cremation, and cemetery providers based in Houston, Texas.

Unfortunately, Dignity Memorial made the corporate decision to close Barbour and Son Funeral Home effective October 31, 2017.

We, the family of Barbour and Son Funeral Home, are deeply saddened by the closure of the family business.

We thank all of the families we’ve served since 1902 in trusting us with your loved ones. Without you, our business wouldn’t have existed.

We leave you with a quote that was often said at the conclusion of gravesite burials:  “This concludes our service, and to all of you who have been so kind, we bid you farewell.”

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