Since 1919 Guare & Sons has been serving the families of Central Vermont. We have formed long and meaningful relationships with many families in the community, while remaining an open and welcoming presence for families who are dealing with the loss of a loved one for the first time.
Whether you are here because we have served your family for generations or this is the first time you have had need of a funeral home, we at Guare & Sons strive to help you create a service that honors and celebrate the life of your loved one, while minimizing both the emotional and financial stress that can be present after the death of a loved one.
It is our mission that every family that comes through our doors feels that we will respect their wishes for how their loved one should be treated after death. We are honored to have the chance to serve our community and believe our experience and expertise continues to make Guare & Sons Barber & Lanier Funeral and Cremation Services a valuable institution in Central Vermont.
From Family-Owned to Community Funeral Home
After three generations of operation by members of the Guare Family, Paul Guare brought Jon Boucher on as a funeral director in 1995. Jon helped Paul modernize Guare & Sons Funeral Home, both through the merger with Barber & Lanier and the construction of the new edition, which includes the “big room” where most events are now held. After 41 years of serving his community, Paul retired in 2017, selling the business to Jonathan Boucher on April 1st 2017. Since taking ownership, Jon has continued to make improvements to the building, software, and procedures in order to better serve the families in need.
On Labor Day in 1918, Florence E. Emmons and Thomas J. Guare were married in St. Augustine Church. Following the luncheon at the bride’s home, they boarded the noon train for Boston, where the groom was enrolled for the embalming course in the New England Institute of Anatomy, Sanitary Science, and Embalming.
The couple had met several years earlier while employed at the HJ Volhum Furniture Store and Undertaker Service, located at the corner of East State and Main Street (now the site of the City Center). Furniture stores in that era often also operated as a full service funeral business.
Upon arrival in Boston, the new Mrs. Guare was offered free admission to the course at the Institute to serve as colleague and companion for the only other woman enrolled in the course. Their attendance at the Institute was suspended when the Spanish Flu epidemic struck the United States with devastating loss of life, and they were summoned home by Mr. Volhum to assist in the emergency.
The epidemic began in September of 1918 and by the end of the month all public places of assembly were closed, including churches. In Montpelier, the epidemic continued into October with a total of some 50 deaths during a six-week period. Thomas and Florence both sat for the embalmers examination later that year and were awarded licenses.
In 1921, they purchased the Frank E. Hall Funeral Home that was located on East State Street and opened a public office in the former Tomasi Block on Main street (currently the open lot next of M&M redemption center). At this time, they also established an ambulance service, initially horse drawn, which continued until the municipal service opened.
Early in the century, funeral services were frequently held in the homes of the deceased, but later in the 1920's, funeral homes were established for those clients whose residences were unable to accommodate the arrangements. In 1924, Thomas and Florence purchased property at 57 Barre Street, and remodeled the first floor as a funeral home. The custom at that time was for such establishments to host “wakes”, frequently for two days and nights before the funeral. Over the years, Thomas was assisted by his wife in the business, and later by his three sons, Thomas J., J. Richard, and Paul. In 1941, Thomas formed a Partnership with Percy H. Davidson. Mr. Davidson enlisted in the Navy in 1942 during World War II and retired from the firm following his discharge in 1945 and his appointment as inspector for the Vermont Department of Health. Florence Guare died in 1944 and Thomas Guare retired in the mid 1940s and died in 1954, leaving his son to carry on the business.
Second Generation of the Guare family
J. Richard Guare was born in 1921 and attended St. Michael’s Schools and graduated from St. Michael’s High School in 1940. He was a certified Red Cross First Aid and Life Guard instructor and was a member of the initial life guard crew at the opening of the swimming pool of Montpelier Recreation Center in 1939. He would later serve as pool director. He was also a member of the call force at the Montpelier Fire Department and was in the Coast Guard fire service in 1942. He served in the harbor protection service with the Coast Guard in American ports and in Greenland during World War II. In 1946, he graduated from the Boston School of Embalming and returned home to assume the management of the family business, which he re-named Guare & Sons Funeral Home. In 1956, he purchased the property at 30 School Street and moved the business to that location. He continued to be actively involved in its management until his death in 1997.
Third generation of the Guare family
In 1976, Paul S. Guare, son of J. Richard, joined the firm as resident manager and has been directing the business since 1986, assisted by Jonathan Boucher who joined the firm in 1995 after graduating for the New England Institute at Mount Ida.
Responding to developing trends in the funeral profession, Paul implemented an expansion and remodeling of the funeral home in 2002, and constructed a funeral chapel in order to offer complete funeral services onsite. The remodeling was accomplished without compromising the exterior of the mid-19th century building.
On November 10, 2011, Guare and sons Funeral Home purchased Barber and Lanier Funeral Home. The follow is an article written about the merger. Mergers and acquisitions, openings and closings – the business world moves to the cyclical rhythms of these milestones that trace an arc in the life of any company. Their details, when announced, can often be reduced and rendered as dry facts on a page, but after the recent purchase of the Barber & Lanier business by Guare & Sons Funeral Home, its owners – Jim Johnston and Paul S. Guare, respectively – recently sat down together to reflect on the history of the two companies, the relationship they have shared, and their role in the community.
“Our families have always enjoyed a close relationship,” said Guare, “and that will continue going forward. Jim will be available to assist in the transition. We’re going to continue the Barber & Lanier name and phone number, and Guare & Sons is committed to providing a seamless service for all pre-arrangements that were made with Barber & Lanier. We’ve had that kind of collaboration right from the beginning, and we represent two of the oldest operating businesses in Montpelier.”
George Barber founded the firm of “Barbier & Lanier Undertakers” in Montpelier, in 1916. It was first located on East State Street where the city’s parking garage now stands, and moved to its current location on Main Street in 1922. Pearl Lanier joined as a partner just after the flood of 1927, and the two men worked together until the 1940s when Barber retired and sold his interest in the business to Robert Hale.
In 1964, Jim Johnston, a native of Rutland, came to Montpelier. After being released from active duty in the Marine Corps, he had enrolled in the New England Mortuary School and worked briefly in the Boston area for JS Waterman and Sons, the largest mortuary firm in New England.
“I came to Barber & Lanier on a contract for a year to see if I liked working in a small business,” Johnston said. “I ended up buying out Bob Hale six months after I arrived. Bob stayed on until he died in the 1970s and we had a great relationship. I sort of became the son he never had, and I stayed for 47 years.”
A unique feature of the funeral business was that until the late 1960s these companies also routinely functioned as the town’s only ambulance service, making calls twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
“When Dick Guare was in business, we used to go out on ambulance calls together quite a bit,” Johnston said. “Back then we didn’t have pagers so you always had to tell whoever was answering the phones where you were going so they could track you down.”
In the case of Dick Guare, that task frequently fell to his wife, Helen, and his son Paul recalls his father’s diligence in keeping her informed.
“I can remember him telling my mother, ‘I’m going to Cano’s Market, then I’m going to the fire house and then the Grand Union. It had to be that specific.”
The history of the Guare & Sons Funeral Home begins with the wedding of Florence Emmons to Thomas J Guare in 1918. Following the post-ceremony luncheon at the bride’s home, the newlyweds boarded a train for Boston, where they enrolled in the New England Institute of Sanitary Science, Anatomy and Embalming.
In 1921, they purchased the Frank E. Hall funeral business, also on East State Street, and opened a public office in the Tomasi Block on Main Street before eventually locating the business on the first floor of their home on Barre Street. J. Richard Guare inherited the funeral home from his father in 1954 and worked until his death in 1997. His son, Paul joined ownership in 1986.
“I was brought up in the business,” Guare said. “Dad would bring me – actually all of my brothers – to help on ambulance calls. I was licensed in 1976, but I’d been involved in various ways for a long time before that.”
Although the ownership of Barber & Lanier now transfers to Guare & Sons, Johnston plans to stay involved through his work as a lobbyist for the Funeral Directors Association, but he’ll be taking a little time off, first.
“We’re going to spend a few weeks in Florida, and my wife Linda is looking forward to her first vacation away since 1988,” Johnston said. “It will be good to finally be able to sleep without a pager next to my ear, but I’ve enjoyed the work. I’ve met an awful lot of nice families and I have no regrets.”
“Jim has been a great contributor to the profession and this community, and I wish him all the best,” Guare said.
“I first came here in 1995, and I was surprised at how well these two businesses worked together,” added Guare & Sons' funeral director Jon Boucher. “I’d been in other towns where it wasn’t like that at all. This was special.”
And if you are looking for that original antique “Undertakers” sign that once hung on the eave of the Barber & Lanier building? You can find it at McGillicuddy’s Pub.
“My son-in-law Dave took it down the other day, and I think he’s already got it hanging up in there,” said Johnston, with a laugh.