By Anthony J. Machcinski
The death of a loved one is never something easy for those left behind; however, the staff at Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home in Kearny take pride in being able to ease that pain as much as possible.
“The most rewarding part (of my job) is when I hear people come up and thank me for any of the little part that we’ve done,” said Mark Wiggins, the owner and manager of Armitage and Wiggins. “I couldn’t imagine, if I was in a bereaved state, me thanking people during that time. So when people come up and give me a hug or shake my hand and say thank you, I know I’ve done something positive for them.”
In its 100th year of service, Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home has provided comfort and care for generations of the area’s grieving families.
“I made a conscious decision to stay (in Kearny),” said Wiggins, who has been a part of the funeral home for 31 years. “I did that specifically because I need to be in touch with people’s everyday lives. When you’re bereaved, you need somebody who has a handle on who you are and what your family is like.”
Wiggins said the funeral home got its start at a storefront on Kearny Ave. next to Town Hall before moving to the corner of Liberty St. and Kearny Ave. In 1929, the funeral home relocated to 596 Belgrove Drive, where it remains today.
Wiggins got his start in the funeral home business while in high school, when he was asked to volunteer his time.
“I had a religion class where I had to volunteer time in a service-oriented business and my father suggested this,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins said that volunteering at the funeral home soon grew into a passion for the business.
“I stayed on and off in college and I evolved into staying with it when I saw what a special business it was,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins said that what makes the business special is the ability to help people out in a time of need.
“When you deal with a family that’s very emotionally sad … you realize how you can really touch somebody and help them when not many people can help at that time,” Wiggins said. “When they walk away and say, ‘this was much nicer than I expected,’ you know you left them on a positive note.”
Wiggins said that the funeral home takes the family through the entire process, from preparing the body to organizing the funeral.
“An important part of our job is to recreate that person’s image in a very lifelike and natural state, which gives people a great amount of comfort,” Wiggins said. “It’s calming for them to see their loved one looking peaceful and calm.”
Wiggins said the hardest part of his job is balancing the line between being sympathetic to the family while remaining detached.
“I know so many of the families that it becomes difficult not to become attached,” Wiggins said. “You have to stay separate but compassionate at the same time.”
Wiggins said that the funeral home business is a “24-7” business.
“There’s no such thing as a holiday or a weekend,” Wiggins said. “If they need you, that’s when they need you. I’m very hands-on. When you call (the funeral home) you get me.”
Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home is located at 596 Belgrove Drive. The home can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 201-991-0657. For additional information, visit the funeral home’s website at www.armitagewiggins.com.