Family business: Leavitts continues 140 years of tradition in burial grounds | News, sports, jobs

Family business: Leavitts continues 140 years of tradition in burial grounds |  News, sports, jobs


Leavitt’s funeral home at 403 7th Street as it appears today. The company is celebrating its 140th anniversary. (photo provided)

Parkersburg – For 140 years, Leavitt’s Funeral Services has focused on serving the community by caring for families.

The company, which has locations in Parkersburg and Belpre, is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year.

“It’s an important milestone for us,” Said John Levitt, who, along with his brother Stephen, is the fifth generation of Levitts to run the business.

John Levitt said the anniversary was important for them to recognize and celebrate with their employees and the community because the company has built relationships with so many people across the region.

It means a lot to them, said Stephen Levitt, that being the fifth generation of business has allowed them to continue serving the community their families have been a part of for so long.

In 1983, the Bilberry-Levitt funeral home was constructed. (photo provided)

“It is important to us,” He said.

The brothers are proud that they are the only remaining family-owned funeral home in the area after others were sold to companies and institutions outside the country.

The business was started by George Elmendorf-Levitt in 1865 as a cooperator manufacturing barrels in the New England Ridge. It eventually became a general store. Over time, people began to ask him to make coffins for funerals.

The business passed through the family to George’s son, C.T. Levitt, who built his first funeral home, a motorized stove and more, founded the company at 218 Juliana Street where it remained until 1919 when it was moved to 324 Juliana Street. In the early 1920s, he moved it to its current location at 403 Seventh Street. In the 1940s, the business was taken over by CT’s sons, Charles, Ed, and Ralph Levitt. In 1975, Carr, son of Charles, bought the company. In March 2000, after Car-Levitt’s death in July 1999, his two sons John and Stephen took over the management of the company.

Leavitt Funeral Services has been at its current location on Seventh Street for nearly 100 years.

Leavitt’s Funeral Home at 403 Seventh Street was built in 1872 by General John J. Jackson in the aftermath of the Civil War as the home of George Thompson, president of the Ohio River Railroad, and his wife, Bill Francis Jackson Thompson, Jackson’s daughter. CT Leavitt bought the house in the 1920s and this has been the site of the business ever since. (photo provided)

John said many people have told them stories of how their families have served their families over the years and across generations.

“You get a lot of great, fun stories that come out,” He said.

Over the years, the business has constantly adapted to the changing times and brought new innovations as customers required different things.

“We have constantly adapted our facilities to provide what families are looking for,” Stephen said.

In recent years, the company has built a new Family Center where families can gather after service for a meal. They have also invested in cremation services because cremation is becoming an option for more people.

With Car-Levitt’s death in 1999, his sons, John and Stephen, took over the company, who run the company to this day. (photo provided)

“Expectations have changed,” Stephen said. “You need a bigger footprint to be able to serve people now.”

In the past, the company has added a chapel, a kitchen, children’s rooms, and more as needed.

“We’ve had to upgrade the facilities to give families the amenities they really want when they’re here,” John said adding some people could be there two days or more depending on what services are needed.

“It was just a matter of presenting the casket,” Stephen said. “It’s now creating a celebration of someone’s life and walking a family through it.”

Even over the past 20 years, he said, changes in technology have changed a lot of what they do and how they do it.

CT Corporation passed the company on to his sons Ralph and J. Edward and Charles in the 1940s and bought by Car-Levitt, Charles’s son, in 1975. (Image provided)

In recent years there has been more interest in streaming funeral services for families who live in different parts of the country as they do not have to travel to this area, but can still be part of the service.

“We can stream it live where relatives can watch it from anywhere in the country,” John said. “We had to adapt quite a bit to that (using audio-visual equipment and integrating video clips).”

“It’s about creating an experience and the technology that helps us do that to give families a better experience and to truly celebrate the life of the one you love,” Stephen added. “We are always looking for the best ways to serve our families, and we look at what families are looking for and need. We always try to stay on top of that.”

More people are using videos as people for several years have used photos to evoke memories and emotions from past times.

“Now we’re in video and live and bringing people together in real time,” John said. “Technology can now bring people here who wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

George Elmendorf Leavitt, pictured in 1881, was the first generation of owners of what would become the Leavitt funeral service. Working in 1865 as a co-op, barrels made shop in the New England Ridge. It eventually became a general store. Over time, people began to ask him to make coffins for funerals. He passed the business on to his son, C.T. Levitt. (photo provided)

“It’s about getting family and friends together at a time like this.”

The business still does a lot of community work and supports local individuals and organizations in the area.

Both praised their employees for consistently serving the needs of their customers.

They have 18 full-time employees and many others who are in training or working part-time. Some of them stayed with them for 30-40 years.

“We are a very strong service-oriented company,” Stephen said. “It takes people’s care.”

John said they remain the only local funeral home with someone available to answer the phone and serve people anytime, day or night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“We want families to know when they need something they can access directly” John said. “People have told us they were surprised that our employees came in the middle of the night in a suit. That’s respect and that hasn’t changed with us. These are our core values.

“A lot has changed but the fundamentals haven’t changed in 140 years.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

Under CT Leavitt, the company grew with its first burial site and first motorized venue circa 1910. (Photo provided)

Under CT Leavitt, the company grew with its first burial site and first motorized venue circa 1910. (Photo provided)

CT Corporation passed the company on to his sons Ralph and J. Edward and Charles in the 1940s and bought by Car-Levitt, Charles’s son, in 1975. (Image provided)

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