On August 1, 1903, my Great Grandfather Floyd A. Gorsline purchased the furniture store and undertaking business in Williamston Michigan. Due to a Sunday School picnic held on the first day of August, the store was closed and opened for business on August 3, 1903.
W. Ray Gorsline my Grandfather was 11 years of age and his brother my Uncle Claude A. Gorsline, 14 years of age were both brought into the family business by their father my Great Grandfather. The business was known as F. A, Gorsline and Sons. Their mother my Great Grandmother Nettie died in 1903. My Great Grandfather remarried in 1904 and they had 3 more children.
In 1914, the year of World War I, my Great Grandfather sold his interest to his sons Claude and Ray Gorsline and the firm became known as Gorsline Brothers. As well as being businessmen my Grandfather and my Uncle Claude were great baseball players and were known as the Gorsline brothers battery for the Michigan Tri-County Baseball League. My Grandfather was the catcher and my Uncle Claude was a pitcher. They played against Charley Gehringer who later became a Detroit Tiger. My Grandfather had the opportunity to go to the big league but because of his business turned it down with the persuasion of his father.
My Great Grandfather Floyd, besides being the first licensed embalmer, was the first to practice arterial embalming in the area and he was also a licensed lay minister of the Methodist church. Through the years he was called upon to conduct not only the funeral service, but to have the religious service as well. In these days all the embalming was done in the home and the service was either held in the home or in a church. These were the times when horse and buggy were used for the calls. My grandfather was the keeper of the horses and later when cars were used, my Uncle Claude took the responsibility of operating them. After the purchase of a new car, Uncle Claude declared that the first one to scratch it would not have the privilege of driving it for some time. Well, that day Uncle Claude had a scrape putting it in the barn, his rule was not enforced. Today the company still has the fully restored horse drawn hearse, and it is used for special occasions and requests.
In 1925 Uncle Claude and Grandpa Ray were faced with a major decision on whether or not to buy out the firm of Wood & Peck Funeral Home in Lansing Michigan. Many Williamston people had moved to Lansing to work for Reo Motor Car Company, Durant Motor Car Company, and other enterprises in the Lansing area. Gorsline Brothers had many calls of these families they served in Williamston, so they decided it would be a wise move to purchase the business of Wood & Peck. It was a two story brick building with a garage in the building that held two cars(an ambulance and hearse).
My mother Gwendolyn Gorsline was born in July of 1925 to her parents W. Ray and Martha Gorsline and they lived in the funeral home in Lansing Michigan. Claude remained in Williamston operating the furniture store and the funeral home. Both Uncle Claude and Grandpa Ray worked between the Gorsline-Runciman Funeral home and the Gorsline Brothers. In 1928 Floyd A. my Great Grandfather was employed by his sons to work the furniture store. He continued his employment until his death which was on Saturday December 1, 1945.
In 1925 my Grandfather became very ill after the purchase of Wood & Peck and was in bed until early spring of 1926 with a serious infection. Again his brother Howard stayed with his big brother and slept on a cot in his room so as to be of help and take care of his brother. In the fall of 1928 D. Howard Gorsline joined the firm of Gorsline Brothers. He was sold an interest in the business in 1945 and was active in the firm until his death in 2001.
All caskets, vaults and tents were stored in my Grandfathers barn and trucked to Lansing and surrounding area cemeteries for burials. Despite long hours and hard work in the company’s operations, they also provided ambulance service with 2 ambulances doing 3,500 to 4,000 runs a year.
One of my Grandfather’s favorite rooms was the recreation room in the basement of the garage, which was his pride and joy. On numerous occasions, dinners and social events of all the families of the company were held in this room. The beginning of the company Christmas Parties originated here too. Grandpa delighted in playing Santa Claus for the after school parties for the employee’s children. The parents enjoyed the get-together, as a potluck dinners with Santa were a big part of the celebration. Many birthday’s in the Gorsline-Runciman families were observed here by bringing in food for a great dinner. The last family party was held November 25, 1945 celebrating Grandpa’s 53rd birthday. My Grandfather ran and was elected Ingham County Coroner on the Republican ticket in 1928 and held the office until his untimely death in 1955.
My mother and father were married in 1947 and my father worked for my grandfather at Gorsline-Runciman funeral home in Lansing. My father was a graduate of Wayne State University receiving his Bachelors Degree in Mortuary Science. He worked for my grandfather from 1948 until 1951 when my parents bought their first funeral home in Hillsdale Michigan. We lived in the funeral home and had ambulance service to serve the community. In 1959 my parents decided to make the move back to Lansing Michigan and build a new funeral home on the west side of Lansing. The funeral home was built during the year of 1960 and opened in 1961, being the only new funeral home in Lansing Michigan in many, many years. We lived in the funeral home and once again my parents provided ambulance service along with funeral service to the entire Lansing area. In 1976 my father sold his funeral home and retired, but he still keeps his funeral director’s license current today. I learned many valuable lessons from my father and the importance of serving families.
I said I guess I just did not grow up to realize I could have had my own funeral home sooner. However it was not to be and I realized I really wanted to be a funeral director in 1992. I went back to college full time and worked for a funeral home in Jackson Michigan while getting the necessary classes and credits to go to mortuary college. I then attended Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Wheeling Illinois from 1993-94 and graduated in 1994. I accepted a job from a funeral home in Indianapolis right out of school and moved my family from Michigan to Indianapolis. After a few years our family decided to build a new funeral home in Whiteland to the put the service back in funeral service. In 1999 we opened our family funeral home in Whiteland, Indiana.
Jessen Funeral represents my family’s commitment to personal service. A fireplace in a large open lobby area, that gives you a welcome feeling, greets all families and friends. We have a children’s room with toys, television/VCR and books. We feel that it is important that children be with their families during the death of a loved one. Our main chapel has seating for up to 200 for friends and family, also offering a family room for family closeness while attending services. Our family lounge provides a large kitchen area for coffee and food that families and friend’s provide for sharing.
We feel there is a rising concern toward the high cost of funerals. That is one reason we are here in the community to help families, keeping costs down and provide economical financial funding programs, while continuing to provide personal service to our families.