Now & Then Volume 1, 2023 | Page 18

Now in its fourth generation , Reece Funeral Home is entrusted to Reece III , who didn ’ t exactly set out to be a funeral director himself . However , the 42-year-old found his way back to the family business , and continues to take the funeral home to new heights and build upon the legacies created by his father , grandfather and great-grandfather .
“ So my great-grandfather started the funeral home in 1929 , but the history goes back a little further than that ,” Reece III said during a break in a hectic schedule as gentle music played softly over speakers .
Indeed , Carroll Reece had been a licensed funeral director 13 years before the funeral home opened for business on Second Street , across from the old YMCA in Ottumwa .
Prior to the opening of Reece , there was a lot of branching out to create other funeral homes . Carroll Reece first found his interest in being a funeral director when he worked for his uncle Charlie
18 Now & Then
Sullivan , who would have two apprentices that created their own funeral homes .
However , Reece Funeral Home as everyone knows it today began in 1939 , inside the imposing white house on East Second Street , across the street from Ottumwa High School . The house also has a story to tell . Built in 1858 , the house was lived in until Carroll Reece ’ s daughter Regina Johnson , who also had a hand in operating the funeral home , passed away in 1999 .
Everyone who has been a part of the house has put their fingerprints on it in terms of decor , either inside or outside , from either beveled woodwork , to stained-glass windows , to adding on to a garage .
“ Originally , the house was not in the city limits , because the city limits only went to Union Street ,” Reece said of the street dividing the high school and the funeral home . “ The White family built the house , but then the Dain family , which owned Dain Manufacturing , made it what it is today .
Photos : Top : A view of Reece Funeral Home at its current location on East Second Street , where the business has been since 1939 . The funeral home is now run by Bill Reece III , the fourth generation to own it . Photo by Maxwell Thomason Above : Bill Reece III , the fourth-generation owner of Reece Funeral Home in Ottumwa , sits in his office with historical photos of his family on a table , Feb . 8 , 2023 , in Ottumwa . The funeral home opened in 1929 , but moved to its current location on East Second Street in 1939 . Reece III took over in 2005 , when four funeral homes existed in Ottumwa . Photo by Chad Drury
There were five homes at one time , and as others moved throughout the generations , we were fortunately able to acquire them .
“ None of them were as stately as this home .”
Many major renovations occurred in the last 30 to 40 years , when William Reece owned the funeral home .
“ Before my dad came back [ in 1974 ], all that foundation of our identity had really been laid by great-grandpa Carroll , by Regina , by my grandfather [ Will Sr .],” Reece III said . “ As