Ryan Funeral Home restarts family tradition

Jonathan Ryan, left, and his father Christopher Ryan, of Ryan Funeral Home, are pleased to offer their services to the Lakeville/Salisbury area. They have reopened 255 Main St as a funeral home after it was closed for twenty years and used as a family residence.

Robin Roraback

Ryan Funeral Home restarts family tradition

LAKEVILLE — Ryan Funeral Home is back in Lakeville after a two-decade hiatus.

The Lakeville branch of their business, Ryan Funeral Home, is located at 255 Main Street at the corner of Lincoln City Road.

“We are happy to be part of the community and continue caring for the community as has been for over ninety years,” the Ryans said. “We are here for personal service, and we take pride in that.”

The big brick house on Main Street was built almost 90 years ago in 1935 and was the location of the Burdick Funeral home. In 1945 G. Roger Newkirk bought the business and it became Newkirk Funeral Home.

Newkirk operated it until 1973 when Frances Gomez bought the business, operating it from 1973-1990, still under the name of Newkirk Funeral Home. Besides Lakeville, there was also a branch in Canaan.

Patti Gomez Majesky, daughter of Frances Gomez and his wife, Patricia, described what life was like in that 1973-1990 period when the family lived with the business.

Majesky said her mother got tired of having to move furniture around whenever the house was needed for a funeral. She recalled putting up a Christmas tree only to have to take it down the next day for a service. She said, “We got really good at moving furniture around.” It was a relief to just have the house as a family house when her father sold the business.

In 1990 Gomez sold the Canaan part of the business to Robert Palmer (Newkirk-Palmer Funeral Home) while retaining the house in Lakeville as residential space for his family.

The most recent incarnation of the Ryan Funeral Home dates to the reopening of 255 Main Street at the end of 2023. It had been closed as a funeral home for more than 20 years and the father and son team are happy to reopen with services to the Lakeville/Salisbury area.

With this reopening, the business has stayed in the family. Patti’s son, Jonathan Ryan, is the grandson of Frances Gomez. He is a licensed funeral director and embalmer as is his father. His father, Christopher, worked for Gomez from 1987-1989.

Christopher graduated from Mortuary school in 1986 and has been practicing ever since. Mortuary school involves two years and earns an associate’s degree. A one-year apprenticeship is required after graduation.

The Ryans have a branch in Torrington; Gleeson-Ryan Funeral Home. Jonathan is mostly based there. Before Christopher Ryan bought it in 2007, it was in the same family for four generations and was known as Gleeson Mortuary. Christopher said that some of the original family still helps out at funerals.

“Funeral homes tend to stay as family businesses,” he said.

The Ryans pointed out that many people are pre-planning their funerals. They said it can be a tremendous help to children and other relatives who may not know just what was wanted by their loved ones. In most cases money for a pre-paid funeral is held in trust and the funds are released when a death certificate is confirmed.

Christopher Ryan said of the future of funeral directors and embalmers, “There is going to be a shortage over the next 20 years. Not enough candidates are coming in to replace the current funeral directors.” At the same time, “with baby boomers aging, the death rate will be rising in the next 20 years.”

Jon and Christopher Ryan carry the main load of the business between them. They hire part-time staff as needed. “Mostly retired gentlemen” who are looking for extra work. He added, it is “not always easy to find people available” because they can’t predict when deaths may occur and can’t promise regular dates. Jon’s mother, Patti, still helps out when needed.

The Ryans said they are there to guide people through what can be one of the most difficult times in their lives. They are proud to “Provide personal service, meet with families directly, and take care of them.”

They offer cremations, funerals, burials, and celebrations of life. Jonathan Ryan said people “don’t necessarily need to come to the funeral home.” He said he and his father are happy to come to your home or meet with you online by Zoom. They are “bringing the business into the new century while maintaining their personal touch,” said Jonathan.

Ryan Funeral Home can be reached at (860) 435-2700, by cell at (203) 231-4677, or online at www.ryanfhct.com.

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