Farmville Favorite: Gearl Reid
Each month I highlight a “Farmville Favorite”, someone who is an advocate for Farmville—working hard to make it a better place. Who should be next month’s Farmville Favorite? Email your nominations to me at email@example.com.
Gearl Dean Reid likes to joke that she is the last person to let people down. With her kind voice and gentle ways, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could do a better job. Gearl is a funeral service director with Bland-Reid Funeral Home, a family-owned business that has been operating at the same location on Griffin Boulevard in Farmville since the 30’s.
Born in the Curdsville area of Buckingham, Gearl grew up in a family of fifteen brothers and sisters. She met her husband, the late Warren Alfred Reid, when they were introduced through a mutual friend. Warren was already working as a mortician and Gearl came alongside him to help with the business. They worked together until he passed away in 2006 after 53 years of marriage. Warren would frequently consult Gearl, a skilled beautician, on how best to arrange and beautify the remains. She assisted with reception-type duties as well, even going to school to earn her funeral service director’s license.
In her younger years, Gearl’s days were filled with raising her two children, helping at the funeral home and serving a constant flurry of clients as a beautician. In the midst of all this, she still found time to remain actively involved in her beloved community. A member of various social clubs, Gearl and her friends would frequently visit the local elderly and shut-ins.
“We used to do a lot of entertaining for the old folks for the holidays,” she says. “We gave out a lot of Christmas gifts to the needy.”
True to form, even in her later years Gearl used her client’s visits as opportunities to serve and uplift, creatively improvising social gatherings for her older clientele.
“When they come in to the shop, you’d be surprised how lonely some of the elderly people are. So I would arrange for them to socialize with each other while they were there.”
After almost 50 years of beautician work, Gearl has finally put away her scissors and combs. “I just retired last month,” Gearl says smiling.
“I miss it and they miss me too.”
And it’s just that same gift for serving that has given Gearl the grace over the years to stay in the challenging funeral home enviroment. She’s quick to admit that although things can get sad, remembering that you are providing help and caring for the family of the deceased makes the difference.
“The funeral business is something that you’ve got to want to do, and you’ve got to love what you do. You don’t just do it because somebody else does it. You’ve got to love to do it,” Gearl says. “It’s a part of life. It’s something that can relieve other people’s burdens.”
Even as she has reduced her involvement in the family business, Gearl’s attitude lives on at Bland-Reid. Gearl’s daughter, Jacquelyn, and grandson are now continuing the business. “It’s a lot of responsibility, not only to the public, but to the family—to keep the business going,” Jacquelyn says. “You feel really responsible for your legacy. Whatever you do you try to do a good job but when it’s your family you want to excel and keep it going.”
For Gearl, as life’s pace begins to calm, she’s enjoying some of the simpler pleasures like being outside and tending her flower garden. At one time, she was renowned for her colossal violets which would regularly take away prizes at the Five County Fair. She also enjoys cooking, particularly anything sweet.
Most of all Gearl is savoring the community she has always loved. “I’m 84. I’m happy to be able to serve my community at my age. Classmates, neighbors, the people I have worked with have passed on so much younger and I’m still here. I’m blessed.”
“The people are so friendly to deal with and work with,” Gearl says. “I like country living anyhow. I don’t like cities. Farmville is a little town where you kind of know everybody and they know you.”