THE HISTORY OF FUNERAL SERVICE IN BOYERTOWN AND THE MORRELL FUNERAL HOME INC.
In the year 1874 Boyertown was a very posh neighborhood. Rittenhouse Square (the portion of West Philadelphia Avenue where the street is widened) was a very prominent part of town. This was also the same year in which Daniel C. Brumbach (August 23,1840-February 8, 1921) began undertaking in Boyertown, at his furniture business on 112 East Philadelphia Avenue. Daniel learned the cabinet and undertaking business from his father Samuel Brumbach, who began his undertaking business after1860, where he strategically opened up a carpentry shop at the intersection of Old State and Hill Church roads in Pike Township to take advantage of the traffic moving between Philadelphia and Kutztown. **** In 1882 Daniel moved the business to the 201 East Philadelphia Avenue. Daniel was one of the first organizers for the start of the Boyertown Burial Casket Company in 1884. He was also the first president of the casket company. He had the idea of manufacturing caskets before they are needed for a funeral, prior to this time caskets were assembled after a person died and a local cabinetmaker was quickly called upon to make a casket. He had a horse drawn casket carriage and a body cooler that could be filled with ice. He could then take it to the family’s home to help keep the remains somewhat preserved until the funeral.
In 1905 Brumbach turned the business over to his son-in-law James J. Brown. James Brown was trained in the art and science of embalming. It took quite some time for the town to accept embalming, since most families liked keeping the body on ice. On January 13, 1908, the night of the opera house fire, many townspeople came out to the opera house to see their fellow townspeople act out the play “The Scottish Reformation”. One of the cast members was Wayland G. Schwenk, age 15. ** Brown handled a majority of the bodies after the fire and embalming quickly began to be accepted into the town, because of the number of people who perished and the inability to bury and identify them all in the usual time period embalming became a necessity.
The embalming was often held in the home of the deceased, sometimes with family members present and the undertaker had to be careful he didn’t get anything on the floor when he was embalming. Often times funerals were held in the residence of the deceased or at the chapel near the cemetery. The undertaker would haul his folding chairs (chairs had the name of the funeral home printed on the back) into the house of the deceased for the funeral. The chairs were stored in a cloth-covered case that held about four chairs. As years passed more people did not have the space to hold funerals in their homes and eventually began to use the funeral home parlor. By the early 1950’s embalmings were no longer held at the residences and by the early 1960’s all funerals were held either at the church or the funeral home.
Wayland G. Schwenk (January 7, 1893-October 8, 1961) served in the Army during World War I and sometime later began to work for Brown. Wayland worked for Brown for several years. Through Wayland Schwenk’s years of funeral directing and his reputation for professionalism, he rose to become a prominent member of the community; his ability to speak both English and Pennsylvania Dutch enabled him to provide comfort and familiarity to a large number of townspeople. Wayland married Elva B. Gerhart (November 1, 1905-February 27, 1998). They had two sons George and Carl. After Brown passed away in 1933, his widow Ella wanted to sell the furniture business with the undertaking business. Wayland did not want the furniture business. He was only interested in the undertaking business, so Wayland purchased a property on 124 West Philadelphia Avenue and made some renovations to the existing house in order to operate his funeral business. It is the same funeral home we use today. His first funeral was Harriet Fisher on March 7, 1935, a former owner of the house on 124 West Philadelphia Avenue. In Wayland’s first year of business he held over 90 funerals.
In September 1962 the Schwenk Funeral Home was sold to Clifford Luther Losh (April 16, 1921-April 4, 1996), who worked under Wayland for 13 years after serving in the Army. Clifford Losh changed the name of the funeral home to the C.L. Losh Funeral Home, which it remained for 39 years (1962-2001). Clifford married Dorothy. They had three children James, John and Judy. In 1962 the Losh family purchased the property at 116 West Philadelphia Avenue and later tore down the house to build a parking lot. Sometime before Clifford’s death he purchased the house at 114 West Philadelphia Avenue and expanded the parking lot even further. The house remains standing and is presently used as apartments. In December 1981, John D. Losh (Oct. 18, 1956-August 22, 2005) took over his father’s business. John received his education in embalming at the same time as Kurt E. Klotzbach at Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. On May 2, 2001, John sold the funeral home to his former classmate Kurt Klotzbach and Randall S. Morrell. The funeral home was then changed from the C. L. Losh Funeral Home to Losh-Morrell-Klotzbach Funeral Home Inc.
On September 26, 2001 the property at 130 West Philadelphia Avenue was acquired as part of the funeral home property and the parking lot was extended further in July 2002.
On May 6, 2002 Randall Morrell purchased his partner Kurt Klotzbach’s share of the funeral home to become the sole owner of the funeral home and changed it to Morrell Funeral Home Inc. Randall S. Morrell graduated Boyertown High School in 1986 and received his BS in Mortuary Science from Point Park College in Pittsburgh and a certificate degree from Northampton Community College in 1990. He completed his one-year internship at the L.W. Ott Funeral Home and remained working there as a licensed funeral director. He spent many years developing his skills in embalming, cosmetology, funeral arranging and directing. Randall married Rochelle M. Gresh. They had three children, Ryan, Jordon and Erin.
The oldest funeral records in the Boyertown area can be found on our premises. We at the Morrell Funeral Home Inc. continue to serve the community from the same building for over 83 years just as they did back when Wayland first began his family run business in 1935.
** “A Town in Tragedy, The Boyertown Opera House Fire Volume II”, By Mary Jane Schneider
**** church records at Lobachsville Lutheran Church.