After 33 years at the helm of Russell Colonial Funeral Home in St. Clair, Nancy Russell has sold the business.
David and Anne Work, of St. Louis, made the announcement of their purchase Sept. 1. They also purchased St. Clair Monument Co. and the 16-acre Crestview Memorial Park from Russell. David Work declined to share financial terms of the deal. The names of the businesses will not be changed.
Charlene Saling, executive director of the St. Clair Chamber of Commerce, said Russell should be celebrated for her service to the community over the past decades.
“I can’t stress enough how impactful she has been, her wisdom, her leadership and guidance in many issues. And of course, she served generations of family members through her business, mine included,” Saling said.
David Work, a licensed funeral director, has been in the cemetery business since 1982, when he went to work for his dad at Lakewood Park Cemetery. He and Anne Work operated Lord Funeral Home in St. Louis from 2001 to 2018 and acquired Jay B. Smith Funeral Homes in Maplewood and Fenton in late 2017.
The Works plan to keep all the staff at Russell Colonial, including Russell herself, who will work part-time in a consultant role and as much as she can in the embalming room. They hope to grow the staff with a hire or two in the coming months, though the duties for such a hire have not fully been determined.
“They know the community,” David Work said. “They’ve got relationships built up through the years. Why would I take that away from the families of St. Clair? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Russell said that the decision was the best thing the Works could have made. She said she had other buyers showing interest, but she chose the Works because she believes they will bring the least amount of change and because of the professional respect she has for them.
“Now we just get to bring some of our strengths and add them to the strengths that (Russell) had already established, and I’m really looking forward to it. I like the city, too. I like the city of St. Clair. My wife and I have been out here a few times. Even though we live in St. Louis, we’ve always been more of small-town type of people.”
Right away, David Work said they plan on replacing the carpeting and applying a fresh coat of paint, but other than those refreshers, he said they don’t plan on changing much of what already works.
“We just want to try to continue to give (families) the service that they got from Nancy,” he said, “just keep building on that and being a part of the community as much as we can.”
Russell said she’ll use her semi-retirement to spend more time with her children and grandchildren, as well as focusing on her health.
“I’ve already waited about five years too long to be able to enjoy a lot of the things that I want to enjoy,” she said over the phone.
As a self-described Christian, Work said their faith is going to guide them into this new chapter.
“My wife and I rely on the Lord a lot, and he’s important to us,” Work said. “We know we can’t do anything without him, and that’s a big piece of who we are, so anybody who has a funeral here, their family is going to get prayed for. It’s just the way we are.”