By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Miller-Stahl Funeral Home has been a mainstay of the Newkirk business community for more than 60 years, ever since the Stahl family relocated to Newkirk in the 1950s to operate their own funeral home. John and Pamela Miller are now retired after decades of of helping families bury their loved ones, but the facility isn’t closing, as Grace Memorial Chapel, in Ponca City, pledges to not only keep the office open, but also keep the Miller-Stahl name.
The Millers retired in December 2020, and are happy the office will remain open to the public.
“We’re just glad to have them, and glad they are going to keep the operation in Newkirk,” John said. “It is a good situation for us and them both.”
Pamela added, “We just wanted to be sure a funeral home was left in Newkirk.”
Grace Memorial Chapel was founded in 1954 by Forrest E. Miles and named for Grace M. Miles. The organization is part of the larger Legacy Funeral Group, which owns more than 100 funeral homes in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Fifteen of those homes are in Oklahoma, and eight in Kansas.
Funeral home director Craig Schatz felt it was the right move to acquire the Miller-Stahl Funeral Home.
“It just made good sense. It’s close enough to keep the office open, and it helps the Newkirk people,” he said.
Much is staying the same at Miller-Stahl Funeral Home. The office will remain open from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday – Friday, with Dennis Wildman and Dora Hand available to help local families. They will also be available for traditional burials and cremations, and funeral services can be held at local churches, or the the Grace chapel. They will also make arrangements to bring the body home should they pass away out of state.
A lot is also changing, however, as they seek to make the funeral process more personal.
The first big change is in the office itself, located at 128 S. Main St. Aside from the new faces of Wildman and Hand, there is also merchandise, which is available for families to remember their loved ones, such as memorial books and folders, as well as cremations urns that feature the loved one’s picture.
There are also lots of specialized services offered at Grace Memorial Chapel available to Newkirk families, and planning can start well before the funeral. Pictures lining the walls of Grace Memorial Chapel depict a variety of funeral ideas, including one that is golf-themed, as well as veterans’ funerals.
“It depends on what the person wants – their hobbies, personalities,” Schatz said. “We try to personalize it.”
Grace Memorial Chapel will work with all churches for funeral services, and also offer their own chapel in Ponca City, but funerals can be also offered on private land.
“We’ve had memorial services at their favorite fishing hole,” Schatz said.
The funeral home now has an online presence, with a new Web site, www.millerstahl.com, and Facebook page. Having a Web site will offer funeral viewing opportunities for those who can’t attend.
“We can livestream funerals, and we can upload video slideshows as well as the service to our Web site,” he said.
In the end, the move is about keeping a local Newkirk business open, and offering the same services Miller-Stahl has always brought.
“We’ll be continuing to make improvements inside at the location we’re at,” he said. “This helps with the economy of Newkirk. Keeping it there, we’re trying to help businesses in small towns, and the families can stay local.”