Wampner Funeral Homes Draft
H106 U.S. History
17 May 2009
The Needham Storey and Wampner Funeral Homes and Services institution has contributed substantially to the history and well-being of Marion and the surrounding areas of Gas City and Swayzee for the greater part of 100 years now. This institution has been the backbone of funeral services in these areas and shows no signs of slowing down yet. From when the first bricks were laid by L.C. Frank in 1892 on 310 East Main Street in Gas City , Indiana, to April 2004 when Paul A. Shane retired after 40 years of services, Needham Storey and Wampner Funeral Homes has been the mainstay and most sought after funeral service institution in Grant County, Indiana.
The early years of Needham Storey and Wampner began in the small town city of Gas City, Indiana. L.C. Frank established his service in the Avalon Hotel at 310 East Main Street. After 30 years of dedicated service to Gas City, Frank got a partner in Mr. O.H. Jay, and the firm then became known as the Frank, Jay Funeral Home. The company treaded water for a few decades before the familiar name of John M. Storey joined the firm in 1960 and soon thereafter purchased an interest in the firm in 1963. A funeral home was constructed in 1981 in which it still stays now, and its name changed in 1987 to what it is now, Storey Chapel (1).
The Marion chapter of this firm started its roots in 1912. Benjamin Franklin Needham opened the B.F. Needham Funeral Home in the 300th block of South Branson Street. The building proved insufficient to their services, and 15 years later moved their firm to the corner of 6th and Washington streets. A little bit of women’s rights history happened here as well, as Lola Needham became the first licensed female embalmer in the state of Indiana. Benjamin’s son, Raymond, joined the funeral home in 1935 and the name changed to Needham and Son Funeral Home. The funeral home was again moved in 1946 to 814 South Adams St. This building provided stability, as the firm stayed there until 1996. (1) In 1989, a 13,000 square foot funeral home, North Chapel, was opened at 1341 North Baldwin Avenue. It currently features 4 chapels and tries to provide families with the most private and comfortable setting for them to make funeral arrangements for their loved ones. Meanwhile, in 1987 Benjamin Needham and John Storey merged their two funeral homes in Gas City and Marion to form Needham-Storey funeral service, with funeral homes operating in both cities. At the time of the merger in 1987, Steven Wampner joined John and Ben as shareholders. Benjamin R. Needham retired from the firm in 1996, and in 2000 the firms name changed to the name we know today, Needham-Storey and Wampner Funeral Service (1)
The Swayzee history is much less complicated. Perry Wyckoff purchased the land, in 1918, on Washington Street, right next to the old post office, and later in the same place as that post office. Wyckoff could no longer hold on to the firm, so Morris Rybolt purchased the building in 1945 and thus changed the name to Rybolt Funeral Home. Since the original building was not built for funeral services, in 1953 the business moved to its now current address of 400 North Washington Street, in a building now and then built for such services. Phillip Rybolt, Morris’ son, owned the business from 1979 until his retirement at the turn of the century. With no successors prepared and able to take over his throne, he sold the business to Needham-Storey-Wampner Funeral Services that year. Needham Storey and Wampner then proceeded to name the Swayzee chapter of their business the Rybolt Chapel, as still holds true today. (2)
Needham Storey and Wampner Funeral Services has provided all that one would need for whatever they feel is a necessary funeral service for their loved one. From only being able to give funerals back when the separate firms began, to now being able to provide cremations to memorial services to the traditional and non-traditional funeral services. Needham Storey and Wampner (NSW) have also provided a few landmarks around Grant County as well. The Grant Memorial Park is the most famous of them all. It was not originally NSW’s land or idea, as in 1930 Edward Stewart, Josiah Winters, and Judge Robert M. VanAtta purchased 80 acres west of Western Avenue and Seventeenth and twenty-sixth streets on the outskirts of Marion, with their operating offices in Hotel Spencer in downtown Marion, currently the Grant County Office Building. In 1985, seeing that the Park could greatly help their businesses, John Storey and Benjamin Needham purchased the park. Ten years later the Grant Memorial Park officially became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Needham Storey and Wampner Services (3).
The other big cemetery currently owned by NSW is the Riverside Cemetery, on the East Bank of the Mississinewa River in Gas City. The Riverside Cemetery comes with some rich and certainly interesting history. The first known person that was buried there was Fannie Carr in 1864. On June 1, 1934, the Jonesboro Journal, the newspaper of the neighboring city of Jonesboro, reported that over 4,000 people have been buried in Riverside Cemetery over time. (4) However, Fannie Carr was not the first person to be buried in the Riverside Cemetery, she was the first to be recognized as buried there, as many un-known persons were buried there before 1864. The remains of the original Jonesboro Cemetery and the original Gas City Cemetery were moved to Riverside later on, as well as two other cemeteries, making the Riverside Cemetery a combination of 4 cemeteries into one. Due to the large number of Welsh families that migrated to the Gas City area in the early 1900’s, the Riverside Cemetery was sometimes referred to the Welsh Cemetery. The Riverside Cemetery is now currently managed, as has been the case for several years now, by the Needham-Storey-Wampner Funeral Service and operated by the Jonesboro and Riverside Cemetery Association. Both of the aforementioned cemeteries have proven enormous to the development of the surrounding cities and townships of Marion.
Currently, Needham-Storey-Wampner Funeral Services is still operating at the level it has been for the past 100 years now. They have been recognized both in Indiana and the United States for leadership in the funeral business (4). Beginning in 2006 and for every year since, Needham-Storey-Wampner has been recognized by the National Funerals Directors Association as Eagle Award winners. They have also been recognized for the past six years through the Pursuit of Excellence program. The Eagle Award was most significant, considering there were only 311 winners in the country, with only 8 in Indiana. Needham-Storey-Wampner is currently a part of 5 different organizations in the state of Indiana (5). Needham-Storey-Wampner has had both longevity and success in the 100 plus years of its existence in the Marion and surrounding areas.
Needham-Storey-Wampner has seen it all in Grant County throughout the century plus it has been implanted here. The services they have provided the county have greatly advanced the ways Marion, Gas City and Swayzee do their business after a loved one has died. They have also provided and maintained two major cemeteries to the county, two top-notch facilities at that. Needham-Storey-Wampner has been the class of the funeral services in Grant County, and without this institution Marion, Gas City and Swayzee would have never been the same.