By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — After two families and 87 years of providing funeral services to Dearborn, the McFarland Foss Funeral Home, 5401 Schaefer Road, will close its doors at the end of the year.
McFarland Foss Funeral Home Director Shirley Foss Thompson listed the business for sale with a Relator in July and an identified individual offered to purchase the building that will not remain a funeral home.
With the death of her father, Donald Foss, in 2002 and mother, Shirley Foss, in 2017, Thompson decided to sell the business and retire to spend time with her family. Thompson has been the head of the funeral home since 1987 and one thing she said she won’t forget are the families and Dearborn community.
“The people — it’s a really just a great community, the people are very genuine, they care, and they’re not fly by night kind of people, and I just enjoy helping them when they need,” she said. “It’s an unfortunate time that everybody has sometimes and I know that I’m an honest person and that I know I’m treating them the best they can be treated.”
Thompson became involved in the family business while living above the business with her four siblings, which encouraged her to go to mortuary school. She attended Fordson High School, Henry Ford Community College and Wayne State University before working at the business full-time starting in 1981.
“I saw how my father — because my mother wasn’t a licensed funeral director but my dad was — saw how the community appreciated both of them and how people looked up to them for guidance. They were very active in the community.”
Donald Foss began working at the funeral home with then-owner Glendola McFarland who founded the business with Alfred McFarland in 1931. Following the death of Alfred McFarland in the 1940s, Glendola McFarland kept the funeral home running with the help of staff before selling it to Foss.
Donald Foss began working at the home in 1953 as an employee and then funeral director before purchasing the business in 1966 when Glendola McFarland retired.
“The relationship between my father, Donald, and Glendola was similar to a mother-son relationship and she was like a grandmother figure to us kids,” Thompson said.
Ownership of the funeral home may have changed over the years, but the services provided to families during their time of need have not. Thompson explained the process of a funeral following a death of someone’s relative or friend.
She said that a family member, hospice nurse or nursing home usually would call the funeral home to let them know about the death and set up an appointment for the family to come in. The home would also arrange to pick up the deceased from a house or hospital.
“During the meeting with the family, we get the important information needed for the death certificate and find out what they want and needs in terms of the service or merchandise,” Thompson said. “We help with those decisions, along with the timing and setting things up with their clergy or finding one if a family doesn’t have one.”
Thompson also added the family has the choice between a tribute or religious service for the funeral and that most of the time the funeral home completed the cosmetics, dressing, embalming, and getting the body before placing it into the casket.
She said the work was sometimes hard, but she enjoyed working with the people in the area because they are appreciative and didn’t take her or the funeral home staff for granted.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])