OZARK — A Dale County native who helped prepare some land on Harper Drive in Ozark for a church to be built there years ago has renovated that same church, turning it into a funeral home.
Alton Newman officially opened Newman Mortuary Inc. on Harper Drive on April 1. Newman, who also operates a dump truck and backhoe service in the city, said opening a funeral home appeared to be a natural step after the experience he has gained over the last 20 years as a licensed funeral director.
His son, Joseph, is currently an apprentice in both embalming and funeral directing at Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham.
Newman Mortuary consists of two viewing rooms, a chapel that seats around 200 people, a display room full of caskets, and a prep room. The mortuary currently operates one silver hearse, with the ability to rent more as needed.
Newman said residents from several miles away have come to tour the funeral home and find out more information on its services. He said the property in which the funeral home is located had been vacant for at least 10 years.
“Most people in the area know who I am, so word of mouth over the last six months we’ve been working on the funeral home has been pretty good,” Newman said.
“It feels good to know that I’m able to offer this type of service to the community.”
Newman said he started work in the funeral home industry in 1985, years after he initially sought training from the late Johnny Trawick who founded Trawick Funeral Home in Ozark.
“I believe I was a teenager when one morning I went down to Mr. Trawick and told him I wanted to learn,” Newman said.
“I’ve been here all my life except for when I was in the Army. It means a lot to people to know I’ve done a good job in the past and pleased their families.”
While Ozark has at least four other funeral homes, Newman said he believes he has an opportunity in Ozark and surrounding areas to offer families a sincere service and a variety of quality “low dollar, middle dollar and high dollar” options to accommodate their funeral home needs.
He intends to continue to operate Newman’s Dump Truck and Backhoe Service while his son completes college within the next two years.
“I want to be here to help him any way I can. Part of that is getting out in the community and continuing to build on those relationships I’ve had for years,” Newman said. “He’s already building his own legacy.”