NORTH CANTON  While the industry and business model may have experienced changes during the past century, one thing that has remained the same has been the name on the sign, Arnold Funeral Home. The company turns 129 years old this year and has welcomed the fifth generation of the Arnold family to the team of professionals.

John S. Arnold Jr. joined his father John L. Arnold at the family business in January. He now has the honor of becoming the fifth-generation family member to continue serving families in their hour of need. John L. Arnold said he has no plans to retire and having his son join him is part of a succession plan for the future.  

"John wanted to join the business when he was in college, we had a conversation then and I told him I wanted him to accrue experience outside of the family business," John L. Arnold said. "My wife Debra and I have a daughter who is following a different career path as a third-grade teacher at the Arts Academy at Summit. Both myself and my son started working with the business when we were in our teens doing things like cleaning bathrooms, washing or driving cars."

John S. Arnold spent eight years working in banking and the last three years as project manager for DeHoff Development. He said coming back to the family business is something he has been wanting to do and is happy to be a part of a business and a family with such a rich history.

"I’ve always been interested in working with the family business and I couldn’t be happier to be here," John L. said.

Arnold Funeral Home was started in 1889 after John L. Arnold's great grandfather, John L. Arnold, purchased an undertaking and furniture business. Little did John Arnold know at the time he purchased the business that he would prepare his good friend President William McKinley for his burial in the fall of 1901.

After the great grandfather retired, his sons Carl and Herman (Pete) took over the business, with Carl as president and Herman as secretary-treasurer. Carl served the business until his death in 1961 when his son John C. Arnold became the new president. John C. Arnold ran the business until his death in 1993 when his son, the fourth-generation, John L. Arnold became the new president.

"I started working at the business in a licensed capacity in 1984. There’s never been any pressure for my son to join the business, he has decided that this is what he wants. I couldn’t be more proud he’s representing the fifth-generation of family to continue the quality of services to the communities we serve," John L. Arnold said.

Today, Arnold Funeral Home has two locations, one at 1517 Market Ave. N. in Canton and the second is at 504 Maple St. in Hartville. It all started on the corner of Third Street and Market Avenue. The company then moved to its next building at 339 Cleveland Ave NW. The business moved to the current location in 1989. The Hartville location was opened in 1965 on Prospect Street before moving to the Maple Street location.

The company organizes 160-180 funeral services a year between both locations. The business has a total of six employees across both locations with three licensed professionals. With John S. Arnold joining the business, the continuity of family and the consistency of quality of services will remain and add to the success of the family business.

John S. Arnold lives in Akron and is married to Christine. They are expecting their first child at the end of June. Christine is an OBGYN resident at Akron City Hospital and is planning to join a private practice later this year.

"My father and I are best friends and it’s been a pleasure to come in everyday and learn the trade directly from my father. It’s an honor and privilege to serve families in their hour of need. It’s the little things that matter most to families like being there to answer questions and the quality and character of our employees," John S. Arnold said. "This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a longtime. It’s great to be here on a daily basis and to serve the families that allow us to help them."

Both father and son serve the community in many ways including John L. Arnold serving as a Lake Township Trustee for 11 years. They both belong to a number of civic organizations and clubs in Canton and Hartville.

There have been a few changes in the industry over the past decade or so beginning with the addition of personalized and customized services. John L. Arnold said the cremation rates have increased to more than 40 percent today versus 7 to 9 percent in the 1980s. Technology also plays a role these days from creating and sending obituaries and photos to the newspapers to gathering family photos for the service.

Both John L. and John S. Arnold said one thing that has stayed the same is that the business is 24 hours a day. They are both dedicated to answering the phone every time it rings. In reality, five generations of the Arnold family have been available to those in their time of need every single day since its beginnings in 1889.

It’s that level of hard work and dedication that will ensure Arnold Funeral Home will be open and available for the sixth-generation of the Arnold family.