Lasher Funeral Home is under new management as part of the Peterson family’s efforts to keep a tradition alive that’s been going strong since 1884.
Since the untimely death of longtime Director Ken Peterson this May, his brother Carl and mother, Janet, had been working hard to find a buyer, or in the meantime, someone who can run the funeral home. Enter Steve Williams.
“I’m a bit more laid back than most funeral directors,” Williams said with a smile as he walked back in casual attire from the funeral parlor to his office in Tinker Street funeral home on a recent afternoon.
“We spoke, Carl and I, about the opportunity of coming aboard. I felt very comfortable,” said Williams, who has been a licensed funeral director in the area since 2000 and had helped Ken Peterson on several occasions.
Williams is busy these days learning the ins and outs at Lasher and will soon move in full time with his family. Williams is married and has five children, aged 6 up to 24. His youngest daughter will be catching the bus from Tinker Street to attend Bennett Elementary School. Some of his children will help at the funeral home by working as ushers and providing other help where needed. Others who worked with Ken will help where needed.
One thing that will change as Williams moves his family from Port Ewen to Woodstock is children playing in the yard, something you don’t normally see at a funeral home. It’s something Janet Peterson said she never saw there.
When not watching his children and grandchildren, Williams said he wants to keep the business as close to the way Ken Peterson ran it as possible. And much like Ken, Williams will be running most aspects himself. You’ll even see him mowing the lawn.
Williams thinks it’s fairer to the families when your involved in all aspects of the funeral from planning to burial. “You don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “My main goal is just getting my feet wet in Woodstock.” Williams said he looks forward to being compassionate and a good listener to families who come in their time of need.
In his daily role as director, Williams said he will make sure the funeral home’s records are in order, check on families’ arrangements and look after the property.
Much like Ken Peterson, Williams has an open door policy and invites anyone to stop by with questions about planned arrangements or other concerns. “When they get to meet me, they’ll get an honest answer.” he said.
Williams will also keep up on changes in the business, such as green burials. More people are interest in this type of burial because of the minimal use of chemicals. “Sometimes it’s just a shrouding of the body,” he said. Sometimes a casket is nothing more than a woven basket. Williams said there are two green burial cemeteries in the area, one in Tillson and another in Rhinebeck.
Finding the right person
Going through the process to try and find someone to run his brother’s funeral home, Carl Peterson found there are shortages, just like many professionals. There isn’t a long list of people waiting for the opportunity to manage a funeral home. Those in the business tend to stay in one place and there aren’t that many people coming out of the schools. Even then, they won’t be ready fresh out of college.
It’s a two-year associates degree, then a one-year residence with an experienced director. While the state authorities were understanding and granted many extensions, Carl and Janet still had a small window to find a director.
Soon, the state gave permission for Williams to manage the business. “It’s a day-at-a-time thing from there. Hopefully, good lord willing, it’s going to work out for Steve,” Carl said.
“It just so happened I was moving on from where I was,” said Williams, who really liked the idea of moving to Woodstock. “Their need and our want,” he said.
Williams hopes now that he has started to settle into his new role, people will start to come and talk with him. “It’s such an asset for Woodstock to have its own funeral home,” said Williams, who noted many small towns do not.
Williams’ office door will be open most days at the funeral home, 100 Tinker Street, 845-679-7381.