Get Breaking News

Enter your email address to sign up.

Receive special offers from

Reins-Sturdivant funeral director and embalmer Bryan Hughes, office manager Mindy Shook
and general manager and funeral director Garrick Smith work as a family to help ease the
burden of families coping with the loss of loved ones.
Photo by Jamie Shell

Originally published: 2013-01-11 15:15:24
Last modified: 2013-01-11 15:15:24

Reins-Sturdivant helps local families through difficult times

Jamie Shell / (

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.” (MacBeth, Act V, Scene V)

Invariably, every person must come face to face with his or her own mortality. When a family experiences the grief and loss of death, one local group is available and ready to assist families as they walk through its dark shadow.

Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home began as Hughes Funeral Home in the early 1900s by Ronald Hughes. Hughes Funeral Home served Avery County for several years providing funeral service and ambulance service. 

Hughes sold the firm to the Reins-Sturdivant group based in North Wilkesboro, a pioneer in the multi-location funeral home business, with five locations in both North Carolina and Virginia. In the late 1940s, William “Bill” Laughridge was named manager of the Newland location and eventually purchased the business from Reins-Sturdivant group over the course of the next decade. Laughridge continued to provide ambulance service and funeral service at the same location for many years. 

In 1971, a major expansion project resulted in the addition of an adjoined air-conditioned chapel/stateroom combination. The new chapel could be divided into two separated rooms for the convenience of the families and to allow the firm to offer two separate visitation areas at one time. Later, a new front lobby was built at the front of the building.

Roger Church, James Beckman and Hoyle Gunter purchased the business from Laughridge in 1982, and in the following year the building was completely renovated with new furnishings and carpet. The chapel was enlarged to offer more space during visitations and funerals. Reins-Sturdivant moved its services to a new building on Ash Street in 1989, with more visitation rooms and a separate chapel area.

Throughout its history, RSFH has sought to meet the needs of families as they cope with loss of loved ones. Garrick Smith, who has served as general manager and funeral director for more than two years following Church’s retirement, began working with the company in 1988 and cited a loss in his family and the kindness offered by RSFH staff as serving to pique his interest in working there.

“When my uncle died in 1979, I remember after his funeral when Bill Laughridge and Hoyle Gunter came to my grandmother’s house, she thought the world of that. The way they treated her was awesome and it impressed me,” Smith said “I had spoken some with Bruce Shomaker, whom I went to church with about the funeral business. I was at a visitation in 1988 and Roger Church asked me if I would be interested in working part-time, and I’ve been here ever since.”

According to Smith, the job is an emotional one, as he and his staff seek to minister and meet the needs of hurting families.

“Many folks say you get used to this job, but the truth is, you don’t,” Smith explained. “There are times that you sit down and just cry. Granted, there are times that you don’t, but you always feel something for everybody. Whether it’s a child losing a parent, or a parent losing a child, it’s tough.”

Reins-Sturdivant offers both traditional and non-traditional funeral services, in addition to cremation services from non-ceremonial to full funeral services.

Smith added that despite the difficulty of current economic times, RSFH works alongside local families to help them find the right services to meet their needs where they stand financially.

“We try to work with everybody,” Smith said. “It’s easier to work within a family’s budget. That way both you know and they know what they can and can’t do.”

The staff at RSFH is a tight-knit unit. Smith, along with office manager Mindy Shook, fellow funeral director and embalmer Bryan Hughes, funeral associate Doyle Shomaker and funeral assistants Gene Carver and Cotton Ray work as one to ensure that the difficult time of loss for a family is handled with dignity and respect.

“We couldn’t do this job without this group. We’re really close group and basically a family ourselves. If anyone of us need anything, the others do anything they can to help, and they have done the same for me,” Smith explained. “We work in an industry that is sadness, and you have to be able to rely on the people you work with for emotional support.”

Working in the mortuary profession comes with its own unique schedule and demands, as personnel can be called upon at virtually any time of day or night to assist a family with loss. Smith cited a couple of criteria for anyone who desires to work in his field.

“You have to be someone who has to be able to hold confidence and be able to be willing to give up sitting down to supper with their family when the phone rings,” Smith added. “You have to be available on holidays, because you never know when you have to work. Death is coming to every one of us, we don’t know when, or the hour or time, but we have to be ready.”

According to Smith, satisfaction is always the top goal of the RSFH staff as it does everything in its power to assist any family served.

“We want 100-percent satisfaction. That’s what we strive for,” Smith said. “We work to make funerals as easy as we can for people.”

Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home is located on Ash Street in Newland. For more information, call (828) 733-2121, email ( or click to