In the end, all roads leads to Heck

Adam Brown
Staff Writer


MILTON-Miltonians go to Heck. That's the way it's been since the early 1920s, and the way it has continued to be for more than 80 years.

Starting out as a variety store that sold caskets on the side, Homer Heck began the funeral home after he became licensed. Laura Danford, Tom and Warren Sevine ran the funeral home over the years, and the iconic Merrill Lunsford has been a part of the institution for 60 years.

Since 1999, Heck has been run by Melissa Cyfers. A native of Lincoln County, Cyfers graduated from Cincinnati Mortuary College after working as an EMS.

"During my EMT training, the first call I went out on was dead on arrival and we took the body straight to the funeral home," Cyfers said.

Although she said funerals are about respecting the dead, they also have to be there for the family.

"You have to be a little bit of everything and help them through the grieving process," she said. "When someone dies, at least one of our staff members always knows them so you have to put your emotions aside and help them through their time of grief."

One of the most remarkable aspects of Heck's history is that they had a female funeral director so early in its history.

Female funeral directors and licensed embalmers are relatively new, she said. When she graduated from mortuary school in 1995 there were about 15 women out of a class of 120. Today it's about half women, she said.

With the baby boomer generation getting older, one problem is that fewer and fewer funeral directors are picking up the torch their predecessors left behind.

"It's hard to find someone today who wants to do this work. If there's a death at 2 a.m., you get the call and go, if someone dies on Christmas Day, you get up from dinner and start making the arrangements."

Heck employee Barbara Ragland said the mortuary had a visitation on Thanksgiving this year.

"We always abide by the family's wishes, even if it's on the holidays," she said.

Cyfers said being around death makes her appreciate life.

"Being here makes me not take my family for granted," she said. "We have funerals for everyone from infants to people who are 100 years old. My faith also helps me."

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