Friday, January 15, 2016

Dolby Funeral Chapel sold to husband/wife employees - By Walter Lunt

In-house transaction ensures little, if any, changes to services

The Dolby Funeral Chapel, long a Windham institution that is the source of service and comfort to local families in grief, has changed hands. It’s been sold “…but I’m still here,” Tim Dolby said on Monday. But now he’s there in the capacity of an employee. The familiar establishment in the Newhall section of River Road, as well as the chapel in Gorham, was purchased about four weeks ago by Kristin and Eric Segee, both funeral directors, who have been employed by Dolby for the last three years. The Dolby business name will be retained.

I think everybody involved “wanted to avoid a sale to a big corporation,” Eric speculated, “If Tim could be here forever, I’m sure he would.”

“I’ve done this for a long while, but it was time for some kind of change,” Dolby said. In addition to the Dolby family having operated the funeral service for decades, Tim was also Windham fire chief for a number of years.

The Segee’s are licensed and certified morticians, and in addition to their work with the Dolby funeral chapels they have also worked at funeral homes in Portland and Bangor. So far, patrons have reacted with a mix of surprise and acceptance, said Eric.

“Most respond with ‘Oh, how sad, but good for you’.” And, he added, most are glad to learn that Tim is still very involved. 

On the topic of possible changes to the operation and physical plant, the Segee’s agreed there will be little, if any. “We want the same level of service and commitment to the community,” said Kristin.
Eric said both he and Tim have agreed on the need for one set of improvements to the chapel facility. Technology. Especially the electronic options which are now limited to cassette and CD players. The plan is to modernize by offering multiple flat screen TV’s that will receive wireless video, still pictures and musical playlists from a patron’s smart phone, which are utilized as tributes to the deceased. In addition, Eric said the website will be revamped and expanded.

“Years ago, if you knew the deceased’s church affiliation you knew the kind of memorial service that would be expected. But today the range of funeral and memorial services are vast and varied.

“The new website (expected to be in operation in four to five weeks) will be used to educate consumers about the now infinite personalization options.”

Another long range goal, he added, might be to enlarge the chapel to accommodate the growing number of people that attend services.

At nearby Thayer’s Store, proprietor Jim Quimby said the news of the Dolby sale took him and his wife, Judy, by surprise. “It’s the end of an era,” he quipped. He said the most frequent response from his startled customers is, “Are you kidding me?”

“Changes in your neighborhood, like any change to your lifestyle, take time to get used to,” he said. “People are reluctant to embrace change. But it’ll work out…(the new owners) seem to be nice people – very congenial.”

The Segee’s (pronounced suh-ghee) seem to be comfortable and content in their new role at the Dolby chapel. They say they’ve gotten to know at least 100 families during their employment there.

“We’re excited, but a little anxious with the new endeavor,” said Kristin, smiling. Eric, who grew in East Machias, indicated they’ve settled in for the long haul. “We like living in Windham.  The town is like a hybrid, it’s got the feel of a suburb, but the character of the old farming community is still here.” Everyone seems to know and care about each other.

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