Many times we encounter people around us, but we don’t know of the good things they do in and for our community. This monthly column will spotlight people of all abilities who are our friends and neighbors. It will shed some light on the positive and kind achievements we are making as a community.
This month’s Community Champion is Ashley Thacker who is the director of Defenbaugh-Wise Schoedinger Funeral Home in Circleville. I chose to speak with Ashley because I’ve always felt that our funeral home directors and employees are people who are often “unrecognized heroes”.
I asked Ashley when it was that she knew she wanted to pursue a career in mortuary science and why. Ashley shared with me that she had known this was the career path she wanted to take since elementary school. She recalls experiencing several family deaths and that she quickly noticed how it brought extended family together. There were hugs, laughter and many stories shared among generations and that the experience actually made a funeral home feel like a very comfortable setting to her.
“I was the first person in my family to go to college.” said Thacker. The fact that it was mortuary school has always made her mom chuckle. Ashley is a 2015 graduate from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.
Ashley shared with me that she is a natural empathetic person and she does experience grief with the families she serves. Ashley and her staff walk through the process with each family which includes picking up a loved one from the site they have passed, whether that be at home, a medical setting or even in traumatic experiences such as auto accidents. She sits down with the family to discuss their loved one and has the family share memories in order to assist in planning the service and writing an obituary. Ashley stated that she learns a lot about whom a person was by sitting and having these conversations with the family. It allows her to offer the best services she can to a grieving family and it allows the family to immediately share their loved one’s memory and wishes with others. Every person and family is unique and she processes their grief throughout the process with them. “I often hear songs that make me think of particular families and sometimes become emotional when I hear them because of the connection.”
I personally experience Ashley’s professionalism mixed with her caring when my own grandfather passed away. Not only did Ashley display the trombone that my grandfather once had the opportunity of playing in a parade with Ted Lewis, she displayed signage that shared this memory to everyone that came to pay their respects. Knowing that my grandfather was an avid fisherman, she also took the time to display a bucket of fishing bobbers, each one imprinted with my grandfather’s initials so that friends and family could take a keepsake to remember him by.
“I need to make sure that a family’s interaction with me leave them comforted and with a positive start to their life long grief journey.” shared Thacker.
When asked what inclusion means to her, Ashley answered my question with a question: “What is more inclusive than death?” She went on to explain that we all will share the experience of grief, although we all grieve differently and there’s not a right or wrong way to do it, we all eventually experience it.