The Evolution of Farley-Estes & Dowdle Funeral Home
In 1882, Ranger and Farley Furniture and Undertaking was established in Battle Creek, Michigan by Charles M. Ranger and William D. Farley. At the time, the business was located at 37 East Main Street, also known as the ”Old Stand.“ Later, Ranger and Farley divided the business into Ranger Furniture and Farley Funeral Service. They continued their partnership for 28 years, until 1910 when Charles Ranger retired. After that, W.D. Farley was the sole owner, until 1914, when his son, George Farley, joined the organization. In 1916, George and his father moved the business to 105 W. VanBuren Street.
In 1919, W.D. Wilson became a partner, joining W.D. and George Farley. The furniture department was dropped, and the funeral home became the sole business in 1925 under the name of Farley Funeral Home.
William D. Farley retired from the funeral service business in 1925, and passed away on April 26, 1929. George continued to operate the home with his father-in-law, W.D. Wilson.
On June 15, 1931, George Farley received the deed to the Old Christian Science property on the corner of Maple and Adams Street (now Capital Avenue N.E. and North Avenue). The Funeral Home on VanBuren Street was closed on December 31, 1936, and was relocated to its new facility on Capital Avenue on January 5, 1937.
Mrs. Clarice Farley (George’s wife), Gertrude Wilson (W.D’s wife), and W.D. Wilson became full partners in 1940, and the business continued to prosper. Mr. Clyde B. Schimmel also came to the home in 1940. In 1941, Mr. W.D. Wilson died, and his wife Gertrude followed him on October 7, 1954. George Farley passed away on September 9, 1953, and left control of the funeral home in the hands of his wife, Clarice Farley.
In 1958, Clarice Farley, Clyde Schimmel and Donald F. Estes (who joined the firm in 1952), formed a three-way partnership that was incorporated in July 1967. Clyde Schimmel upon retirement sold his interest in the corporation to Mr. Estes who became sole owner. John Dowdle soon joined the firm and became a partner with his father-in-law Mr. Estes. John is currently president of the firm and Don is the CEO. Mr. Schimmel passed away in 1999.
Currently the funeral home is known as Farley-Estes & Dowdle Funeral Home. Don Estes, John Dowdle, Ross Schimmel, Bob Hegerberg, Jon Barnes and Charlie Johnson are the licensed funeral directors. The directors and licensed prearrangement counselor Deonne Estes, along with an important professional staff, carry on the tradition of providing personalized funeral and memorial services.
Former Partners of Farley Funeral Home
William D. Farley
W.D. Farley was born on a farm in Oakland, Michigan on November 1st, 1853. He attended country schools and later business college in Detroit. He graduated from Albion College in 1879. W.D. taught for a number of years, and was the superintendent of schools in Indiana until 1882. He came to Battle Creek in 1882 and went into business with Charles M. Ranger, in the furniture and undertaking business. They continued their partnership until Charles retired. The business was then split up into Farley Funeral Home and Ranger Furniture. W.D. became the sole owner of Farley Funeral Home. He retired in 1925 from the funeral home, and died at the age 76 on April 26, 1929.
George D. Farley
George Farley was born on December 18, 1890 in Battle Creek, Michigan to William D. and Luella Farley. He attended Battle Creek High School, and graduated from Albion College in 1914. He was a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity at Albion College. He married Miss Clarice Wilson on June 27, 1917. They had one daughter, Anne (Ford), and one son, William D. Farley.
George Farley was active in school and club affairs, and operated one of Battle Creek’s oldest undertaking businesses, Farley Funeral Home. He joined the business in 1914 under the lead of his father, W.D. Farley. He operated the business after the retirement of his father, and in 1925, formed his first association with his father-in-law, W.D. Wilson. He continued in partnership of the Funeral Home until his death on September 9, 1953.
Clarice Farley (Wilson), was a lifelong resident of Battle Creek, Michigan. She attended Argubright Business College and taught for three years at Battle Creek High School. She married George Farley on June 27, 1917. After her husband passed away, Clarice became a partner in 1940. She served as vice president when it was incorporated in 1967. Together with her husband, she had one daughter, Anne Ford, and William D. Farley. Clarice passed away at the age of 83 in Leila Hospital.
William D. Wilson
William D. Wilson, became a partner in the Farley Funeral home in 1919, joining his son-in-law, George Farley and George’s father, William D. Farley. He remained a partner until his death in 1941.
Clyde B. Schimmel
Clyde Schimmel was born on June 12, 1913 in Lansing, Michigan to John and Sarah Schimmel. He graduated from Charlotte High School in 1933 and attended Michigan State University. He completed his funeral service resident training at the Estes-Leadley Funeral Home in Lansing. He later attended and graduated from Chicago’s Worsham School of Mortuary Science in 1938.
He briefly managed the former Volney Johnson Funeral Home in Bellevue, Michigan before joining the Farley Funeral Home in 1940. He was a partner in the business until he retired in 1981, after 48 years.
He was honored at the Michigan Funeral Directors State Convention in 1998, for his 60-year membership (one of only three). Clyde Schimmel died on September 28, 1999.
Donald F. Estes
Donald F. “Don” Estes age 81 of Battle Creek, C.E.O of Farley Estes & Dowdle Funeral Homes, died on Friday, July 4th 2008 at Borgess Medical Center after complications from injuries he incurred in an auto accident in Plainwell, MI on June 17, 2008.
Don was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan to Clarence B. and Mary E. (Meehan) Estes on June 5, 1927. He was raised in Gary, Indiana where he graduated from Tolleston High School. Don served in the U.S Army during WWII and was assigned to the 8th Army Headquarters in Yokohoma, Japan with the Occupation Forces. He attended Indiana University but was loyal only to his other alma mater, Michigan State University. After that, he graduated from Wayne State University School of Mortuary Science in Detroit in 1952. Don was briefly employed in Detroit after graduation but then moved to Battle Creek in 1952 and joined the staff of Farley Funeral Home, and so began his 56-year career. He became partner at Farley Funeral Home in 1958. The firm incorporated in 1967 and the name changed to Farley Estes Funeral Home in 1983. Don remained the Chief Executive Officer and actively involved in the business until his accident. Don always managed to balance work and family. It was always family first, business second. So, after a nice family dinner, he’d make sure to properly excuse himself from the table to call the office. Don never retired.
Don served his apprenticeship in Lansing, where he met the love of his life, Dorothy L. Johnson and they married on February 3, 1951 in Battle Creek, MI. Surviving is Dorothy, his wife of 57 years; two daughters, Deborah J. (John) Dowdle and Deonne F. Estes, both of Battle Creek; two granddaughters, Stacey Smith of New York, NY, Jessica Smith of Battle Creek; three grandsons, Cory (Kori) Dowdle of Grand Rapids, Barton (Janelle) Dowdle of Augusta, Adam Dowdle of Kalamazoo; a great-grandson, Jackson Dowdle, another great grandchild on the way, and his sister, Norma Jean (Jack) Wallace of Valparaiso, Indiana. If you were in his family, you were inside his kitchen cupboard where he taped a list of all the family birthdays and anniversaries. He never missed them. He was as dutiful at remembering these important dates as he was relentless at photographing their occasions.
He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Floyd.
Don played an integral role to the city of Battle Creek, a city he loved. He worked on all the major Battle Creek Fund Drives through the years and served as chairman or division head of the Battle Creek Y-Center Drive, the Hospital Fund Drive, United Way Fund Drive, and the United Arts Council. He was a member of the planning Committee for NorthPointe Woods, worked on the fund drive and served as a board member. He was a former member of the Battle Creek Jaycees, served as vice-president and was awarded the Outstanding Young Man of the Year. He was a current member and the 1962 president of the Battle Creek Kiwanis Club, 1969 president of the Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce, 1983 board president of Good Samaritan Hospice Care, former board member of People’s Savings and Loan Association, board member of the Battle Creek Boy Choir, former member of the administrative board at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, a former chairman of its finance committee and served as a chairman of Chapel Hill Balloon Parking Committee. He received the Enquirer and News George Award in 1970. He was currently an active member at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, Battle Creek Kiwanis Club, The National Funeral Directors Association and District #3 Michigan Funeral Directors Association. Involvement this grand of scale was proof that: even if Don did retire he would never stop working. Though consistently busy both by his business and his organizations, Don always found time to write in his daily journal. Priceless now are those pages where he jotted fond memories about family, community happenings, notable sports scores, or sometimes just the weather. He would notoriously quote from his journal by announcing, “Four years ago today…” Don was nostalgic in that he remembered, sentimental in that he wrote it down.
Don always had a way with words yet words fall short in explaining who he was. He is better understood by what he meant. Don was something to everyone and everything to the rest of us. He was a leader, a boss, a businessman, a family man. A man of tradition and a man of his word whom we were better for knowing, lucky if we knew him well, and blessed if he was family.
We weren’t ready to say goodbye but do so in the same manner and grace Don went about his life. A good life it was.
Visitation to honor Don was held Monday, July 7, 2008 at the Farley-Estes & Dowdle Funeral Home.
Funeral services to celebrate Don’s life was held at his funeral home 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 8, 2008, with Rev. Dr. James M. Gysel officiating. Military honors and interment followed at Memorial Park Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, Battle Creek Community Foundation or NorthPointe Woods.