Lemley Funeral: 96 Years and Counting

April 1, 2012 | By More

Yesteryear’s sense of community is often lost to contemporary generations. Nothing more than musty memories colored in sepia tones. Luckily, we sometimes find a connection to those bygone days. Luckier still, we sometimes find this connection carries those old-time values to those of us living today.

Lemley Funeral Home in Atkins celebrated its 96th year of business in 2012. A person would be hard pressed to find many businesses in the state that have lasted this long. And while 96 years is a remarkable lifespan for a small business, the roots of Lemleys travels back even further than that first funeral service.

W.M. Lemley and Sons Mercantile was the name of the original business. When the store opened in 1904, it was a major player in the railroad town of Atkins. The period following the Civil War saw both economic and population shifts come to southern Pope County. The Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad was the main reason for this, replacing the Arkansas River as the main trade route in Pope County.

As the hub of business shifted away from the river, many residents of the Galla Rock community, located on the Arkansas River seven miles to the southwest, moved into Atkins. The community grew and Lemley and Sons Mercantile helped supply the needs of its citizens.

At some point between the store’s beginnings and the year 1916, W.M. Lemley and Sons began making caskets. Time casts a haze on most of the business conducted during this period. While caskets were carried in the store prior to 1916, that year saw the first recorded funeral service credited to W.M. Lemley and Sons. As part of a connection to the past, Lemley Funeral Home still has pen and ink death records from the early 1900’s. Many folks use these records today for genealogy searches.

After W.M. Lemley passed away in 1929, the business name was changed to Lemley Brothers Hardware. The furniture and hardware portion would later become Rackley’s Furniture, owned by Carl Rackley. Carl has also been a funeral director with Lemley’s since 1962, with 2012 marking his 50th year of working with the Lemley family and serving the community.

In 1998, Lemley Funeral home moved out of the old storefront building in downtown Atkins to its present location on North Church Street. It’s interesting to note that Carl Rackley moved his business from downtown Atkins as well, his new building located across the street from the new Lemley’s building.

Jim Lemley and his staff credit their longevity to simply treating people right.

“We’ve always been a small town business,” says Jim, “we have to work harder and be more accountable to our families, they’re our neighbors. They’ve come to expect a difference in the level of service, as well as price, and we’re honored to be able to consistently provide it.”

Jim’s son Chris joined the business in 2009. He represents the fifth generation of his family to serve the River Valley. Chris is proud of the heritage of service passed down through the generations.

“When people serve together for decades it shows they are proud of what they are doing for the community, that they take pride in their work.”

Funeral director Carl Rackley is celebrating his 50th year with the business. Funeral director and embalmer Riley Christian has more than 30 years of experience in the funeral and mortuary business. Office manager Lorneva Pinion has been with the funeral home for 12 years. Combined, the licensed funeral directors on staff have more than 100 years of experience in their time at Lemley’s alone, added Chris.

With almost a century of service to the River Valley, It’s safe to say that Lemley Funeral Home is rooted in the community. It’s easy to see that Lemleys will be here for years to come.

Lemley Funeral Service offers families the very best in experienced service, modern facilities, and dignity with affordability. If you haven’t met them already, they invite you to call or come by and compare.

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