3rd generation comes into its own at Haight family funeral home

January 04, 1994|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

A third generation of the Haight family in Sykesville is continuing the tradition of helping people during what, for many, is the most difficult time of their lives.

Brian L. Haight, 27, is the newest member of the family to enter the Haight Funeral Home business, established more than 100 years ago by James R. Weer.

In 1887, the Weer Funeral Home opened on Main Street in Sykesville, complete with horse-drawn carriages for funerals. In 1933, Luther H. Haight, Brian's grandfather, joined the business. He became a partner in 1951.

Today, Haight Funeral Home and the family continue to serve the Sykesville area, albeit from a different and larger location and with the more modern hearse and limousine. In 1958, the big brick funeral home was built on Route 32, a few blocks south of Liberty Road.

"C. Harry Weer, James Weer's son, and my grandfather [Luther H. Haight] started as partners," said Mr. Haight. "My grandfather's father died when he [Luther] was young, so C. Harry Weer fostered him."

Although the Weer family is no longer involved in the business, it is hardly forgotten. Brian Haight's father, who runs the business now, is Harry Weer Haight.

Brian Haight, now in full partnership with his father, started in the business 10 years ago by working around the funeral home.

After graduating from Liberty High School, he acquired his associate degree in mortuary science from Catonsville Community College.

Then he went to Western Maryland College, and graduated in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in business administration and economics while he continued to work at the funeral home.

"I take care of arrangements with the family, embalming, dealing with the cemetery. I handle every detail, plus the business end, ordering things and payroll," Brian Haight said.

"I decided to go into the business after seeing how my grandfather and father handled . . . helping people in a difficult time," he said. "We're considered professionals because we take care of everything dealing with a funeral, and that's a comfort to people."

Haight's is aware of military regulations and benefits, how to handle Social Security benefits, and a host of other things dealing with the death of a loved one.

Funeral homes also must deal with government rules and regulations, handle arrangements with the cemetery and be able to conduct funerals according to various religious beliefs.

Just a month ago, Haight had its first Muslim funeral.

"We had to place the casket facing Mecca, and the women came in and shrouded the body," Mr. Haight recalled. "They had their religious leader come in, and they all knelt in prayer, and the men all carried the casket out the way they do. That was something new for me."

In addition, funeral directors must deal with a variety of situations and a range of people, from the grief-stricken who have no idea of what to do to those who have prearranged funerals.

"We get all kinds of situations -- car accidents, suicides, 92-year-olds, which you can understand, and children, which I still have a hard time dealing with," Mr. Haight said. "You do what you have to do in a situation. But at the same time, it shows you have feelings, too."

The most important aspect of the business to Mr. Haight is how people are treated.

"You have to be able to listen to them and give them guidance," he said. "Sometimes that's all they need, someone to talk to. You have to treat people with dignity, so we treat them according to the Golden Rule."

Haight Funeral Home is a member of the Golden Rule Society, an international organization for funeral directors.

Members must be nominated by their peers and approved by the society. Members must continue their education at society seminars and workshops.

"I'm all for that," Mr. Haight said. "You have to keep up with changing regulations and other things."

Every state has its own funeral industry regulations. Mr. Haight is licensed to practice in Maryland and West Virginia.

Since 1887, some things, such as the technology, have changed in the funeral business, while other aspects have stayed the same.

"We had horse-drawn carriages on Main Street for a long time," Mr. Haight said. "Years ago, families would have funerals and viewings at home because the funeral home wasn't as large and it was just tradition. This is a very traditional community."

People in today's society often prearranges funerals. Years ago people didn't talk about dying.

"We don't have a week go by that someone doesn't comes in to prearrange their funeral," Mr. Haight noted. "Sometimes it will be an elderly person with family out of state, and they'll come to us and make arrangements so the family doesn't have to fly right out, and they know everything's taken care of."

He said one woman had arranged her funeral, down to her clothing. But her stockings were in storage for so long they dry-rotted.

L "She came in one day and brought me new stockings," he said.

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