Lovelace takes over as Manager at Lotz in Vinton
VINTON–Wayne Lovelace is the new Managing Partner at Lotz Funeral Chapel in Vinton, but he is not new to the Lotz organization or to the funeral business. He has worked for Lotz since 2007, and began his career with Oakey’s in Salem.
Lovelace has been assigned to the Vinton Lotz since April. He was pleased to be asked to take over as manager from Rodney Barrow, who accepted a position in Rocky Mount.
“Vinton is a tight-knit community, just like Salem,” said Lovelace. “It’s like family; everyone knows everyone else. It’s more of a traditional environment.”
Lovelace is a lifelong resident of Salem. He graduated from Andrew Lewis High School and started working as a dispatcher for the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Department in the early 80’s. He enjoyed his years in that position, but the hours were difficult, with little time off.
Lovelace began working part-time at Oakey’s Funeral Home in Salem, parking and washing their vehicles, mowing grass, whatever needed to be done. After six months, he was offered a full-time position.
“They were very good to me at Oakey’s,” said Lovelace. “I moved up the ladder there. The company offered to help me get my degree in mortuary science when I was 40 years old.”
Lovelace completed as much of his Associate’s Degree program as he could at Virginia Western Community College. For his final two semesters, Lovelace lived in a camper at John Tyler Community College in Tidewater to complete the more specialized courses involved in a funeral services degree, coming home on weekends. He credits his wife Brenda with keeping the family functioning at that point, since they had three children in high school at the time. Luckily his wife worked at home, providing day care services.
Lovelace graduated in 1997 and became a licensed funeral director. He managed the Oakey’s in Salem for a couple of years, then went into the “pre-need” segment of the funeral business with Lotz in 2006.
After two years in pre-need, Lovelace found that he missed working with families and returned to the “at-need” side of the business at the Roanoke Lotz, and backed up Barrow at the Vinton location.
“I love what I do and feel blessed to be in this position,” said Lovelace. “There is nothing more stressful than a death in the family. It’s a time when people make their worst decisions. It is rewarding to earn a family’s trust and help them through a difficult time.”
He has found that Vinton and Salem are similar in their customs in regard to funerals, being more traditional than in Roanoke. At the downtown Roanoke Lotz, families choose cremation 48% of the time. Just five miles away at the Vinton Lotz, only about 18% of families elect cremations.
Lotz has been in business in the Roanoke Valley since 1937, beginning with the original Roanoke branch located on Campbell Avenue. They moved to their current Franklin Road location in 1957, into a building which was formerly the residence of A.L. Smith, the president of Norfolk and Western Railway. The Vinton Lotz opened in 1959, and has continued in business at the same location for over 50 years.
Lovelace has seen the funeral business change through the years, especially since the downturn in the economy. Families have opted for less expensive services with less costly cremations increasing, fewer hours of visitation, and fewer traditional services. Funeral homes have adapted to meet their needs.
Accepting a death involves several stages for those left behind, and visitation and a funeral service traditionally provide closure for a family to help them cope with their grief.
“While finances may lead a family to choose cremation over a more traditional burial, even a cremation can include a very traditional service,” said Lovelace. “Actually nowadays caskets with removable interiors can be rented for funeral home viewings during visitation to save on costs. Families can still experience a traditional funeral service with a cremation; the only difference is interment.”
Arranging a funeral service involves many steps and procedures, many hurdles to cross, most of which are very stressful for the family. Lovelace sees his main role as a funeral director as helping to reduce that stress and making sure that all the family has to do is show up. And his role doesn’t end when the funeral is over.
“That’s when the family is finally alone and reality sets in. Their friends and relatives go home, and they are left to cope,” said Lovelace.
Lovelace follows up with families during that time, and even assists with all the paperwork that a death involves if the family needs his help.
Helping families during their most stressful time can also result in some residual stress for funeral home employees. Lovelace discovered a stress outlet, and also the solution to a midlife crisis, by purchasing a motorcycle—a Harley Sportster 1200– as he was about to turn 50. To his surprise, his wife became a motorcycle enthusiast along with him, riding not driving.
“At first she wouldn’t ride; now she doesn’t want to get off,” said Lovelace.
Lovelace’s three children are now grown, but live close by with his five grandchildren. He lives in the family home place where he grew up in Salem. His family owned land in the area and gave Lovelace and his sister both property to build on there. When his parents passed away, Lovelace moved into his childhood home, and one of his sons moved into the home Lovelace built.
It takes a special person to excel as a funeral director. In addition to traits of compassion, composure, tact, and empathy, a strong feeling for family is paramount. Lovelace is able to comfort other families because he values his own family above all else. That’s including their newest addition: a 70 pound English Bulldog, Bessie.