A HISTORY OF UNDERTAKING FAMILIES' NEEDS
In 1865, the United States witnessed the end of the Civil War. It was also during that year that a young man named John W. Shannon established a funeral business in La Grange, Kentucky, usually making his wooden caskets out of black walnut and cherry. Mr. Shannon had a deep desire to help families in their time of grief, and that would form the foundation of five generations of the Shannon family "undertaking" the funeral needs for families in the Shelby County area.
After John W. Shannon's death in February of 1893, his son, R. Lee Shannon, Sr. (or Mr. "Lee" Shannon, as he commonly was called), took over the family business. In 1899, he moved the business to Shelbyville, Kentucky, after he bought the interest of Shannon Reid in the firm of Shannon & Company, and became a partner of John S. Shannon (cousin) of Shelbyville. (John S. Shannon had been connected with the funeral business for a number of years.) Mr. R. Lee Shannon, Sr., was one of the key movers in establishing the State Board of Embalming and he was one of the first people in Kentucky to receive an embalmer's license and an undertaker's license. During this time, Shannon & Company was located on the south side of the 500 block of Main Street.
Shannon & Company continued until 1908, at which time Edgar Slead bought the interest of John S. Shannon and the firm became Shannon & Slead. In September, 1909, Shelbyville experienced a devastating fire which burned down the funeral business, the First Baptist Church and several other businesses. In October, 1909, R. Lee Shannon, Sr., reopened the business as the Shannon Undertaking Company in the Odd Fellows Building between 4th and 5th Streets on Main Street.
In 1935, the business was reorganized into what today is known as Shannon Funeral Service, Inc. R. Lee Shannon, Sr. was the Chairman, R. L. Shannon, Jr. was the Secretary, and Lula M. Shannon (R. Lee Shannon, Sr.'s wife) was a Director.
For a number of years, the business occupied the northeast corner of 8th and Main Streets, but in 1941 Shannon Funeral Service bought the John Davis residence at 1124 West Main Street and moved the busiess to its current location, making it the first "Home for Funerals" in Shelbyville. It also was in that year that Shannon's was invited to join the prestigious National Selected Morticians (NSM) group. NSM, now called Selected Independent Funeral Homes, is an international group of privately owned funeral homes. 1941 also marked the year that William Lee Shannon, R. Lee Shannon, Jr.'s son, joined the family firm.
To maintain the high level of excellence in serving the families of Shelby County, since moving to Main Street there have been numerous renovations, upgrades and redecorations to the location, including two major additions in 1955 and 1965. The most recent addition was completed in August, 1998; a 200-seat chapel which includes a handicapped accessible entrance and rest rooms, additional off-street parking, a children's room and a new music room.
In 1982, the manager, James W. "Jim" Davis, who had been with the business since 1971, became a part owner with Shannon Funeral Service. In 1988, Mr. Davis served the Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky as its President and currently serves as its Secretary-Treasurer. In 2002, Mr. Davis left Shannon's after 31 years of service to establish the Davis-Powell Funeral Home in his hometown of Berea, Kentucky. In 1985, John S. Shannon, son of William L. Shannon, "officially" came to work full time for the firm and became the fifth generation of Shannons to work in the business.
Over the years, Shannon's has served the Shelby County area in other ways: previously running a 24 hour/day ambulance service, being actively involved in civic and church affairs, working to help make a strong local Chamber of Commerce, promoting the importance of education, as well as supporting numerous organizations and individuals dedicated to making Shelby County a better place to live. Shannon Funeral Service has long strived to give exceptional and dignified service to the entire community. Its continuing goal is to carry on that same tradition for many generations to come.