Lemley Funeral Service was built upon the work of W.M. Lemley and Sons Mercantile, a hardware store that did business in what is now downtown Atkins. The store opened in 1904 and supplied the needs of the railroad community that emigrated away from the Arkansas River. It was there that house-made coffins were built. It was there that the first hearse began operating. The hearse also doubled as the only working ambulance in town.
While downtown Atkins grew, the hardware store grew with it. That growth eventually brought change.
In the 1970s, Medicaid put a stop to the ambulance/hearse and Carl Rackley, who has been a part of the Lemley Funeral Service family for 54 years, bought the hardware portion of the store from Chris’ grandfather. In 1988 both Lemley Funeral Service and the renamed Rackely Furniture relocated to North Church Street, just a few streets over from their original storefront location.
Now, amid pen and ink death records dating back to the early 1900s and sepia photos showing the original Lemley hardware store, Chris is working toward prolonging the legacy of his forefathers. “We’re still taking care of people the same way we always have,” Chris said.
Lemley funeral service recognizes that while standards and expectations of funeral services have evolved over the last century, family traditions have not. Lemley provides cremation, embalming, chapel services and various hearse and burial wishes. “We want people to know we honor those traditions, but we can customize [services],” Chris said.
Customizations include variations of hearses taking loved ones to burial sites or the burial process itself. All customizations can be worked out with Chris and his employees.
Lemley’s services don’t stop there, though. Other services not incorporated or specified in burial packages include legal advice on action after a loved one’s passing and help with counseling and grief therapy. These non-profit services are another way Lemley works to care for its community — a service, although happily done, is often not easy. “This job gets harder and harder every year because we bury more of our loved ones,” Chris said. “We aren’t just taking a call on a customer; these people are our friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches. We’re serving our community.”
Chris and his staff plan to continue their service as one of the oldest, and friendliest, funeral service staff available to the state of Arkansas. Future endeavors include pre-planning options and continued highlighting of their staff, who combined have more than 100 years of professional experience in the funeral service world.
Anyone seeking Chris or his staff are encouraged to visit Lemley Funeral Service’s Facebook page or call Lemley Funeral Service at 641-2589.