Gallant Funeral Home: Family Serving Family

by | Apr 2024

IT’S A familiar but uncomfortable tradition and way of life. Countless times, we’ve walked the sidewalk as slowly as possible to the front doors of the funeral home, mentally rehearsing our condolences or recalling our favorite memories. It’s an uncomfortable dance with the past and the present designed to give closure and comfort to grieving friends and families. We know our way to its kitchen and restrooms, and we know before the doors open that the fragrance of lilies will be as likely as the patterned throws and decorative wind chimes sent in memory of the one whose time here has passed.

At one time or another, before the obituary appeared in the local paper, we sat with family around a table in the funeral home’s conference room. Overwhelmed by the decisions to be made and consumed with the loss of someone so dear and close to us, the kindness and compassion of people like Brooke Gallant Fanning, a third-generation funeral director at Gallant-Riverview Funeral Home, moved our hearts.

In 1952, Brooke’s grandparents, Charlie and Lee Gallant, began serving Lincoln County families at Gallant Funeral Home at 119 N. Main Ave. Their oldest son, Brad, followed in their footsteps and owns the business today, now located at 508 W. College St. The Gallant family cares for your family, a message Brooke sends loud and clear as she continues her grandmother’s legacy.

“My grandmother was quite the woman and trailblazer. She was very small in stature but very big in perseverance. She became a funeral director and ambulance driver at a time when there were very few women pursuing such a career. She was the first female licensed ambulance driver and funeral director in our community and served as an ambulance driver until 1972, when the hospital took over the ambulance service,” said Brooke.

Lee’s presence had a calming effect during difficult times.

“She brought compassion and a motherly approach to serving families at times of grief,” Brooke said. “Oftentimes people are unsure of what to do after someone dies, and she was very good to hold their hand or hug their neck and reassure them they were doing great and that they would make it through this difficult time.” 

Growing up, Brooke and her family lived in an apartment at the Hazel Green branch of the funeral home, which has been sold. Her father grew up in the residence incorporated into the original North Main Avenue location. The needs of local residents ordered their day-to-day lives; death and grief were and are a normal presence.

“Growing up in the funeral business made me understand the importance of not only having funerals but also the importance of the job of a funeral director and how that service ministers to families who are grieving,” said Brooke.

The many tasks and work behind the scenes are tailored to each family served. Just as no one grieves the same, no two services are the same. Brooke and her family serve the same families year after year and generation after generation, honored to know they are trusted to take care of loved ones during such a time.

But the little girl who grew up playing “funeral home” with her sisters didn’t always expect to follow in the footsteps of her dad and grandparents. Lee and Brad took over operations of the family’s two funeral homes and its cemetery, Riverview Memorial Gardens, after Charlie’s death in 1991. The Hazel Green location was sold in 2003 when Lee’s health began to decline, but she continued to work in the business until her death in 2008. 

When Lee’s health began to decline, Brooke felt the call to carry on her grandmother’s legacy of serving families with compassion and concern. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing from Auburn University and obtained her funeral degree from John A. Gupton Mortuary College. Brooke is married to John Fanning and lives in Elora on his family’s Century Farm with their two-year-old daughter, Sloane. John, an educator, helps at the funeral home whenever time allows.

Brooke said, “My greatest challenge is balancing motherhood and home life, which is my very most important calling, with the demands of my job. Funeral service is a 24/7, 365 job, and it should be. I always take into account that while working weekends and holidays can become draining, my job is to serve a family who has lost a loved one. 

“And I’m very fortunate to be able to provide that service. I want my daughter to grow up and remember that her mom was able to help people in a way that many others can’t. Funeral directing isn’t a job most people are drawn to, but it’s just a way of life for me. I’ve never not known the funeral business and this way of life.”

The Gallant-Riverview Funeral Home stands as a testament to the Gallant family’s commitment to their community. It remains a place where compassion and care converge — a sanctuary for those seeking solace during life’s most challenging moments. It’s family serving family. Serving the community since 1952, the Gallant family remains devoted to a timeless mission of offering comfort and understanding when it’s needed most. GN

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