Saturday July 13th, 2024 9:45PM
6:33PM ( 3 hours ago ) News Alert

Ward's Funeral Home to merge with Memorial Park Riverside Chapel

By Caleb Hutchins Assistant News Director

One longtime Gainesville funeral home is merging with another in a move announced by their managers Tuesday.

Ward's Funeral Home will be merging with Memorial Park Riverside Chapel. The move will incorporate the clients and services of Ward's with Memorial Park Riverside, while the current Ward's building is being purchased by local church Asbury Chapel.

Owner of Ward's Funeral Home, John Wayne Abernathy, said the move was made in part because he recently became the pastor of a church in Banks County. Ward's final day of operation will be Friday.

"This spring, I was contacted by Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Lula," Abernathy said. "We were doing both the funeral home and the church, but it just got to be where it was so much...we just felt like the best thing for us is to seek other things."

Abernathy and his wife, Wendi, have operated Ward's Funeral Home since 2019. The funeral home has existed in Gainesville for nearly 100 years, and Abernathy said this move will return its business to the family that founded it all those years ago.

Memorial Park Riverside Chapel is managed by Jerry Ward.

"It came about in the mid-20's. There was a Mr. Newton that was in the funeral business, and my grandfather bought in with him," Ward said. "Then, sometime in the 1930's, Mr. Newton was out and it became Ward's Funeral Home. Then my grandmother operated it. My father and uncle were here and they operated it up until 1993."

Ward said it's an emotional move for him to see the business come back to his family.

"It means a lot. It's what I grew up in. I really started in the funeral business when I was 14 years old and grew up in it," Ward said. "It's pretty much all I've ever done in my life except for when I was in the restaurant business for 12 long years and then got back into the funeral business. It's what I know and what I feel like I'm good at."

Abernathy said he has personally contacted the families who have their arrangements with Ward's Funeral Home and he said the feedback he's received has been mostly positive. He said he wants his clients to have confidence that their arrangements will be honored.

"We have, through much prayer, sought the best avenue for your family and your family's wishes," Abernathy said. "We feel very confident in our agreement with Memorial Park North that you're in great hands there, and we will be available on special request to come in an assist with those. Our families are very important to us and we don't want any disappointment."

Ward echoed those thoughts.

"We'll continue what John Wayne has established and what our family's established and that's to provide personalized service," Ward said. "It's not just a cookie-cutter type service. We believe in the personalized service that each family is individual and they have their needs."

Asbury Chapel said in a press release Tuesday that it plans to move into the former site of Ward's Funeral Home in the near future.

Reverend Whit Martin, a Gainesville native and pastor at Asbury Chapel, and Charles Hudgins, chairman of the Asbury Board of Trustees, presented the project at a church meeting in Dec. 2023 where the membership voted on and approved the property purchase. 

“Our leadership has said from the very beginning, ‘Let’s not get ahead of God,’” Martin said. “We have been prayerful, and patient and the Lord has blessed us with this amazing opportunity to serve Gainesville. It is an honor to be located amongst the people of this vibrant downtown area.” 

Asbury Chapel conducted its inaugural service on Jan. 8, 2023, with 165 people in attendance. The church has experienced steady growth, welcoming 136 people. Services are held on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. at Memorial Park Riverside Chapel until the relocation takes place.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Business News, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: gainesville, hall county, Memorial Park Funeral Home, Ward's Funeral Home, Asbury Chapel
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