LITTLE CURRENT – Ever since she was a small child, Gloria Dickson knew that she wanted to someday own her own business. After a two-year college stint garnering her funeral director certification she purchased the Island Funeral Home and set about expanding the business. Now, 23 years later, Ms. Dickson and her ex-husband Tony have sold Island Funeral Home in Little Current to Stewart Simpson and Shiela Bray of Simpson’s Funeral Home in Gore Bay.
“A lot of people are surprised to realize that it has been 23 years,” said Ms. Dickson. “But it has been a wonderful experience serving the community over those years.”
Ms. Dickson is taking time out for self care over the next few months. “I have a number of personal matters that really require my full attention right now—especially taking care of my parents,” she said. “My father is in palliative care.”
Although the challenges of parting ways with her husband have added to the stress mix for the now veteran funeral director, she hastens to add that, despite uninformed conjectures of some people in the community, she most definitely would have been able to buy out her partner to continue the business. “That wasn’t the issue,” she said, adding that she came to the hard realization she needed to take some considerable time off for self care and to care for her family members. In addition to her aging parents, Ms. Dickson has four children, ranging in age from the youngest at 10 to the oldest at age 20. “It’s been a very busy 23 years,” she laughed.
“I love my job,” she said. “You don’t like it that people die, obviously, but death is a natural thing. It has been a privilege to be chosen to serve—that is something you don’t take lightly. I really enjoyed getting to know people in the community—you don’t forget about people. The funeral home wasn’t just a job for me.”
She noted that the two years of school to secure her certification was the easiest part of her career. “It was an intensive two years, to be sure, but you really have to have the heart for this business.”
Ms. Dickson looks back on her time at the helm of the Island Funeral Home with justifiable pride, having more than tripled the business over the course of more than two decades. A lot of local business had drifted to Sudbury before she took the business on and winning the trust of Island families was paramount to the success of bringing that business back to Manitoulin.
But that focus on building the business and a family took their toll. “Healthwise, working like I did caught up with me,” she said. “To be completely honest, I’m tired. I don’t want to wind up being totally burnt out—I would like to enjoy a few years of retirement.”
Being a funeral director is a challenging career path, given that you are dealing with the public during some of the most stressful times.
“Sometimes you have try to direct people,” she said. But that direction toward the practical has to be accomplished in a compassionate manner.
Mr. and Ms. Dickson have left behind two staff members who will be continuing to work at Island Funeral Home despite the change in ownership. “They are beyond phenomenal,” said Ms. Dickson.
“I am very happy with the staff,” agreed Mr. Simpson, who said he and his partner intend to continue the great tradition of service built up by Mr. and Ms. Dickson. “Our staff will be working back and forth with each other, both Gore Bay and Little Current,” he said.