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Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, June 24, 1954


  Submissions by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2012

~ ~ ~ ~

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, January 12, 2017, Page 4

By Mike Avitt

I took this picture of Benson Hainline stripping the roof of the Watson-Armstrong Funeral Home in May 2012. Benson and Tim Saville enlarged the front office that summer. The business now goes by the name Armstrong Funeral Home.

I have the history of Rhoades Funeral Home from 1902 to 1981. The funeral home has been in at least five different locations.

A brief history of the business is given in the June 12, 1952 Mount Ayr Record-News. It closely matches what I've collected in the last fourteen years.

In 1902, Reverend Thomas S. "Tommie" Rhoades went into partnership with Henry H. Parsons in the undertaking business in Mount Ayr. Mr. Parsons had been in the business since at least 1897. By 1907, Rhoades was out of the partnership and in 1911, Tommie and his wife Mable (nee Knight), had purchased the J. W. Mapel & Son furniture store. Mable was also a mortician.

The undertaking business went hand-in-hand with the furniture business so, in 1912, Rev. and Mrs. Rhoades built an addition to the rear of the building the leased at 122 S. Taylor. Mrs. Martha Timby owned the building at the time. Jim Hymbaugh owns it today.

Rev. Rhoades had a couple of partners in the coming years but they didn't stay. The undertaking business was moved to 105 or 107 S. Fillmore in October 1918. The furniture store was no longer connected to the business.

In July 1920, Tommie bought the building at 119 S. Fillmore and soon moved his funeral parlor there. In June 1926, Tommie's son, Clair, received his college diploma. Four months later, Clair was awarded his certificate as a registered embalmer and joined the family business. In February 1927, an ambulance was added to the funeral business.

Rev. T. S. Rhoades bought the residence of Ezra McMaster at 205 West Monroe in May 1930 and a major renovation was begun. The new Rhoades Funeral Home held an Open House September 26, 27, & 28, 1930. On the ground floor was a chapel with a seating capacity of 75, with an office, a music room, and a family room. The upstairs held displays of caskets, vaults, suits, etc.

A new Buick ambulance was ordered in January 1947. Five years later, the funeral home was renovated again in the spring of 1952. Open House held June 14 & 15 of that year saw a new Hammond organ, a new chapel, and other upgrades. Two years after that, Reverend Thomas Samuel Rhoades passed away, leaving Clair and his wife Dorothy to operate the funeral home.

Clair passed away in 1962, shortly after LBanks Wilson became associated with the business. Dorothy passed away in 1971 and Mr. and Mrs. LBanks Wilson bought the funeral home from the Rhoades estate. The business now had the name of Rhoades-Wilson Funeral Home.

In 1973, Rhoades-Wilson bought Dunfee-Brown Funeral Home located at 301 N. Taylor.

Rhoades-Wilson Funeral Home merged with Varner-Watson Funeral Home on July 1, 1981. The new name being Wilson-Watson Funeral Home. LBanks Wilson and Jay Watson were the funeral directors.

Transcriber's Note: Armstrong Funeral Home maintains a site in Mount Ayr and in Clearfield. Jay Watson graduated from Diagonal High School in 1967. He was a Vietnam veteran, serving in the U.S. Army. Jay purchased 1/2 ownership in the Varner Funeral Homes of Diagonal, Clearfield and Tingley in 1979. Jay and LBanks Wilson merged their businesses in 1981 to create Wilson-Watson Funeral Homes of Mount Ayr, Clearfield and Diagonal. Jay married his classmate Donna Rychnovsky in 1971. Following the sale of the funeral home to the Armstrongs, Jay still works part-time at the home.

Bill Armstrong married Sandy Carson of Diagonal in 1986. They moved to Mount Ayr in 1988 when Bill accepted a position as a funeral director. After LBanks retired, Bill became a partner in 2001 when the name changed to Wilson-Watson & Armstrong Funeral Home. Bill and Sandy purchased the business on January 1, 2009 from Jay and Donna Watson, changing the name to Watson-Armstrong Funeral Home. Sandy began working full-time at the funeral home in 2010.

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2017

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