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Carson Funeral Homes has had 'big presence' in town for a century

Dave Carson is carrying on the tradition at Orillia's 'family funeral home' which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary

Carson Funeral Homes, Orillia’s “family funeral home,” recently marked its 100th anniversary with an open house to celebrate the historic business’s deep roots in Orillia. 

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the business is family,” said Dave Carson, owner and funeral director. “Our family is the second generation, and the funeral home has always been family owned.” 

The business has been in operation since 1923, when Lorne Doolittle of Severn Bridge opened a funeral home on Coldwater Road and West Street. 

In 1948, George Crawford joined the business and it became the Doolittle Funeral Home - Crawford Chapel. Needing more space, Crawford moved the facility into its current home on Coldwater Road. 

That’s when Dave's parents, Robert and Ann Carson, entered the picture, and turned Carson Funeral Homes into what it is today; they also opened a location in Midland. 

After purchasing the business in 1982, Carson said his dad grew invested in giving back to the community, eventually serving as the president of the local chamber of commerce. 

Dave Carson, who eventually took over the business himself, said Orillians often remark on his dad’s compassionate spirit and passion for the dignity a funeral can bestow on the memory of a loved one. 

“He was a compassionate individual that was always there for a family regardless of what they needed,” Carson said. 

He added that the 100-year milestone “would have been huge” for his father, who passed away in 2014. “He poured his heart and soul into this place and this community.”  

Don McIsaac, Orillia’s mayor, said businesses such as Carson Funeral Homes play a large role in the town’s civic life. 

“They’ve helped the community by volunteering and donating; they’ve had a big presence in Orillia,” he said.

Carson said a common thread throughout the business’s long history has been its focus on making the staff team — five full-time employees and multiple part-time workers —  feel like family. 

“Having that kind of relationship with your team members flows over into the relationship you can have with your community and clients,” Carson said. 

Sue Morris, who has been working at Carson Funeral homes for 17 years, said she admires the family values that impact the business’s management style and day-to-day operations.

“They’ve always been community oriented, and they donate to just about everything there is to donate to,” she said. 

Both Morris and Carson said guiding families through what can be the most difficult days of their lives is a challenging yet rewarding job. 

“Hopefully somebody has lived a long and beautiful life and we are celebrating that life,” Carson said. “It’s the really really sad circumstances when it’s a young person’s passing and we become someone who walks the path with the family on their journey. We become a friend, a leaning post on that journey.” 

As the business enters its second century, Carson said numerous renovations and service adjustments, like 2017 renovations to the home’s reception rooms, set them up for continued community-centric success. 

“I feel like the general public is at a point where they want to celebrate loved one’s lives, and focus on that instead of the grief component,” he said.