Celebrating life after death

FUNERAL HOME: Fawn Daggett (center) and her husband, George, opened their first funeral home in 1956 in Barryton. They opened a second location in 1973 in Big Rapids. Holly Bruntjens (left) and Nancy Spedowski work at the funeral home’s Big Rapids location. (Pioneer photo/Jonathan Eppley)

BIG RAPIDS — George and Fawn Daggett opened their first funeral home in Barryton more than 50 years ago. Nearly 20 years later, they opened a second location in Big Rapids to better service county residents.

Their daughter, Christine, joined the family business in the 1980s. She took over as director when her parents became semi-retired and started traveling to Florida for the winter.

Directing a funeral home is a delicate job that’s not fit for everyone, Christine said. Grieving a lost loved one can bring families together, as well as cause animosity.

“Our work is a calling,” she said. “It is more about celebrating life than death.”

This week, the Pioneer gets to know the staff of the Daggett and Daggett-Gilbert Funeral Home, Inc.

PIONEER: Give a brief explanation of what your business does or specializes in.

CHRISTINE DAGGETT: We plan and arrange individualized funeral or memorial services. Our funeral home was built as a facility where people have funeral services, memorial services and visitations which may be held privately or publicly. We schedule the time and place of the service, write an obituary and file death certificates and any other legal forms. We also assist families with Veterans benefits, filing social security and insurance claims. We sell merchandise associated with these services, such as markers, monuments, caskets, vaults, urns, memorial jewelry and memorial keepsakes.

How did you come to own your business?

DAGGETT: I joined the business with my parents, George and Fawn Daggett, and began management responsibilities when they became semi-retired.

What sets your business apart from similar businesses?

DAGGETT: We actively continue to self-educate to keep up with the changes in our profession. We do so by being members of National Funeral Directors Association, Michigan Funeral Directors Association, the Better Business Bureau and the local and state chambers of commerce.

How does your business give to the community?

DAGGETT: We participate in philanthropic projects through the various clubs and organizations where we belong. For example, the Elks Lodge of Big Rapids, the Big Rapids American Legion Auxiliary Post No. 98, the Barryton American Legion Auxiliary Post No. 473, Business and Professional Women of Big Rapids, Zonta and, most recently, Veterans and Family Memorial Care.

TWO LOCATIONS: Fawn and George Daggett started the Daggett Funeral Home in Barryton in 1956 and opened a the Daggett-Gilbert Funeral Home (above) in Big Rapids in 1973.

What is an interesting trend you’ve seen with your company, or customers?

DAGGETT: Services are becoming more personalized and unique to each individual’s life. We encourage families to bring in personal items, such as quilts, deer and fish mounts, wood carvings, bingo cards, musical instruments and pictures for us to frame or display.

What is the best and worst thing about being in the business that you’re in?

DAGGETT: Grief brings out a person’s true character. Sometimes it’s a thing of beauty, and sometimes it’s not. We see families come together during a difficult time in their lives and comfort one another. We admire how kind and compassionate families can be towards others, including our staff and those who attend services and visitations.

What advice would you give to a fellow business owner or someone interested in starting their own?

DAGGETT: If you really love what you do, it’s never work.

Getting Down to Business

Name of business: Daggett and Daggett-Gilbert Funeral Home, Inc.

Name(s) of business owner(s): Fawn and Christine Daggett

Number of employees: 11

Address: 19238 30th Ave. in Barryton; and 13985 Northland Drive in Big Rapids

Phone number: (989) 382-5566 in Barryton; and (231) 796-3611 in Big Rapids

Website: daggettgilbertfuneralhome.com

Hours: Business office hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and by appointment. Services and visitations are held seven days a week, and staff also are on call 24 hours for grieving families.

Established: 1956 in Barryton; 1973 in Big Rapids

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