By Sue Moore
“Funeral homes don’t have to be a scary place,” said Steve McCowen, new co-owner of the oldest surviving business in Vicksburg, the former Life Story Funeral Home. An open house for the community to meet and greet new owners under a new name is scheduled Thursday, April 12 from 4 to 7 p.m.
The name, McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, Rupert Durham Chapel, reflects the owners, but preserves the name of the funeral home’s original owner and founder.
McCowen has been the representative of the family-owned business for the past 15 years in Vicksburg. He and Tim Secord of Otsego/Plainwell have purchased the business from Jon Durham and Herb Ayres. They also transferred ownership of the Plainwell Marshall/Gren Funeral Home to the new McCowen-Secord ownership.
Vicksburg’s Life Story Funeral Home has gone through three generations of the Rupert family while located at 409 S. Main Street. It has operated under the names of Rupert, Rupert-Durham, and Life Story Funeral Home. All were owned by members of the Rupert family tree.
McCowen and Secord are partners. “We just clicked together while Tim was working as a manager of the Plainwell office,” McCowen said. He and his family are well connected in their community, with Secord’s wife a teacher in the Otsego school system. The two also purchased the Portage Chapel that Durham and Ayres opened in the 1990s at the corner of Lovers Lane and Milham Road.
“I enjoy what I do in this business. It is very rewarding to help people in their time of need,” McCowen said. He has worked in the funeral home business since the age of 16, beginning in Jackson, where he would go on calls while in high school. He likes the people part of the business and knew he wanted to go to mortuary school. He chose Xavier University in Cincinnati. He came to Vicksburg in 2003 when Todd Angood had an opening in the Plainwell business and then interviewed with Jon Durham to work in Vicksburg.
“This is home now and I treasure it. I worked for Sheldon and Marilyn Durham, Jon’s parents. Marilyn taught me so much. She was such a sweet soul. Her dad was Duane Rupert who started the business in 1933. Jon started Life Story in Kalamazoo which provides funeral homes all around this area with media services including funeral folders, video of a person’s life and web sites. He also is a developer located on the north side of Kalamazoo,” McCowen pointed out.
“I’m starting to bury people I know so well. It’s hard. Sometimes I get choked up just walking through the Vicksburg cemetery and seeing the names and remembering the faces of the people there. There is a tradition of family service in your own hometown that we intend to follow. That’s what it’s all about for me and the people who work here,” McCowen related.
Since calling Vicksburg home, McCowen has become deeply involved with the Chamber of Commerce and the Community Schools Foundation board. “Now I will be able to re-invest in the community as part of the business practice. This is a traditional place and the only thing that’s changing is the name on the door,” McCowen said.
The McCowen children have grown up in Vicksburg, with MacKenzie graduating from high school in 2017, Joey playing football as a junior in 2017 and a member of the baseball team in 2018. Son Steve is a freshman at VHS. A second marriage for both McCowen and Jenny Mckillop is scheduled for August 4 with Secord taking over for him, should a family be in need on that momentous day.