O'Neil-Lawson Funeral Home History

C. G. O'Neil 1890-1983
Mable O'Neil 1900 - 1986

Corbin was still a young community in 1930 when C.G. O'Neil moved his family from Lebanon, Kentucky and assumed D.F. Burke's interest in the Burke and Hearne funeral establishment that had opened here in May of 1928. A native of Owen County and a veteran of World War I, O'Neil's career in funeral service began when as a young boy he helped around his uncle's funeral parlor-hitching horses to the hearse and doing other chores. He received his Kentucky undertaker's license (#173) in 1914. After working several years he attended the Cincinnati College of Embalming in 1925 and became a licensed embalmer the next year.

O'Neil and Hearne Funeral Directors, operated with partner J.D. Hearne, was located in a store-front building at 207 N. Main Street. This facility consisted of an office, casket selection room, a small embalming room, and storage space, with employee apartments upstairs. In those days, the deceased was usually taken home for visitation, with funerals being held at home or in a church. Occasionally, the embalming was done in the home as well, and caskets were often made by friends or neighborhood carpenters. While motorized hearses were used around town, horse-drawn wagons were still needed to reach some rural homes and cemeteries, especially in winter and periods of bad weather.

O'Neil & Hearne Funeral Home - circa 1930

In 1936, O'Neil purchased the interest of Mr. Hearne and changed the firm's name to C.G. O'Neil and Son, the son being Gayle W. O'Neil. C.G.'s wife, Mable, obtained her undertakers license in 1938 to become one of the first female funeral directors in this area. By this time, O'Neil's reputation was firmly established as a man of high personal and professional standards. He and his staff were widely known for their dignified and compassionate service to the bereaved.

Invoice Payment from 1932

During the 1940's the firm continued to prosper in spite of the limitations imposed by World War II. Following his service in the U.S. Navy, Gayle O'Neil graduated from the Cincinnati College also and became a fulltime licensed staff member. As this decade ended, the need for a more modern facility had become apparent. Property at 204 N. Kentucky Street was bought and construction began on the present building-designed by O'Neil in the style of a southern mansion with a columned front porch.

Dedicated in 1951, this spacious new O'Neil Funeral Home had a formal chapel with an organ and oak pews and furniture, two visitation rooms, a large casket selection room and preparation rooms, ample garage and storage space, and three apartments. This added a new dimension to the service offered by O'Neils by providing suitable facilities for visitations and funerals within the funeral home.

Over the next two decades, with the new building and a capable staff, the business thrived. Some apprentices during this period went on to successful careers in other towns.

Gayle's wife, Jody, was licensed as a funeral director and later helped with the firm's books. In 1969, Gayle assumed ownership of the business and C.G. O'Neil began an active retirement, continuing to help with arrangements and funerals.

      

Presentation by Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky of Certificate for 75 years of services to O'Neil Funeral Home

In 1982, C.G. was honored by the Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky as the oldest practicing funeral director with the oldest license in the State, #173.

Providing ambulance service to the community had always been an important aspect of O'Neil's service. In the early 1970's, Gayle and several staff members had become certified emergency medical technicians to better meet this need. But, in August 1977, the funeral home's ambulance service ceased when Whitley County assumed this responsibility.

The early 1980s was a time of loss for the O'Neil family: Jody passed away in June 1982, C.G. died the following March and Mable in February 1986. A few months before his death, C.G. was honored by the Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky as the oldest practicing funeral director with the oldest license in the State.

Gayle and Mary Ann O'Neil

In recent years our facility has been redecorated, with improved accessibility, better exterior lighting, and more parking space. With the completion of the downtown overpass, our central location is more convenient than ever for families throughout the Corbin area.

In January, 2012 Gayle O'Neil sold the oldest business in Corbin, Ky to Mark C. Lawson. Mark has over 26 years experience in the Funeral business, including 16 years at O'Neil Funeral Home. While Gayle no longer owns the business, he is still actively involved, and continues to reside at the funeral home. Mark's goal is to continue carrying on the O'Neil tradition of the at home feeling that has made families feel welcome and comfortable. Mark, Gayle and the friendly staff are here to assure that tradition will continue for years to come.

The Lawson Family - Mark and Robin
and children Markayla and Megan

Today, there is increased interest in prearrangement and personalization of funerals. As an independent, locally owned firm, O'Neil-Lawson Funeral Home has the flexibility to meet this special needs of all our families with honesty in business and dignified, compassionate service. Our standard of excellence, begun more than eighty-four years ago, is alive today under the direction of Mark C. Lawson and his staff, and will be the foundation of our service in the future.


O'Neil-Lawson Funeral Home 204 N. Kentucky St., Corbin KY 40701(606) 528-4411 Fax: (606) 528-2434 info@oneilfh.com

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