Arvin Harrell started his college education at Southwest Texas State University and took a job at Pennington Funeral Home helping out while he lived in an apartment over the garage. Not only did the job provide a place for him to live, but also it birthed in him a passion for serving in the funeral industry that has passed down to another generation. Arvin graduated from San Antonio College of Mortuary Science receiving his funeral director’s license and began working for Jimmy Clay at Wilke Clay Funeral Home in 1961. It was there he met his wife Patsy Washburn Harrell. In 1963, Arvin joined Weed Corley Funeral Home progressing to Assistant Manager and then later moving to Wilke Clay Funeral Home and becoming part owner of the Funeral Home in 1976.
While working at Wilke Clay, Arvin decided he wanted to build his own funeral homes. In 1983, Harrell Funeral Home began with the construction of the Austin location. The funeral home officially opened its doors on February 4, 1984. Three years later, he noticed a need for an additional location in the Dripping Springs area and opened a funeral home there as well. Harrell Funeral Home in Dripping Springs remained on the corner of Hwy 290 and Ranch Road 12 for 22 years and then was relocated to Hwy 290 West and Heritage Drive in October 2008 to more fully serve the needs of the growing community West of Austin. The third location in Kyle was established in 2008 to meet the quickly expanding needs of families located south of Austin in the Buda and Kyle communities.
It was always Arvin’s dream to help the people of his community get through some of the most difficult times. Today, Jason and Patsy Harrell are continuing the legacy at Harrell Funeral Home in honor of Arvin Harrell. The tradition established and dream once envisioned has now come to full fruition. Whether families see the service as the end of one chapter or the beginning of another, at Harrell they will find Where Love Lives On.
“After high school, when I started to think about my career path the funeral industry wasn’t on my radar because I didn’t really understand what my dad did as a funeral director. It wasn’t until I was in college, when I began working alongside of him regularly that my eyes were truly opened to what the funeral industry entails and the impact my father had with families. My dad built his businesses reputation on how he treated others, honesty, and integrity. His philosophy was to stand beside a friend when they needed someone to call upon. I realized what he did was so much more than just a career,” explains Jason Harrell, Co-Partner, Funeral Director, and Certified Crematory Operator of Harrell Funeral Homes.
When families come into any of the three Harrell locations they are welcomed with a modern, friendly atmosphere that is second to none. After some recent updates, the Austin location has left their original 80s furnishings behind to make way for fresh, new decor focused on bringing light and life into the atmosphere.
“We value our customers and we know they appreciate the updates to the decor. Updating the locations has made them more comfortable and that is something that this generation looks for when choosing a funeral home,” Jason continues.
Harrell Funeral Home is one of the largest family owned funeral homes serving Austin and the surrounding areas and they would not be where they are today without Arvin’s vision and the amazing staff that carries out that vision each day. The Harrell staff is dedicated to forming long-term relationships with those they serve and is focused on meeting the community’s needs.
“Our staff is our greatest asset. The culture and overall feeling of our locations would not be what it is today without them. When we hire someone, we are looking for people with heart. We want our families to have a person dedicated to walk beside them each step of the process, personalizing the experience for them. We desire for our families to look back on their final time spent with their loved one and see the value in how they celebrated their life with no regrets. It takes the right kind of person to make all that happen. The way our staff is able to serve our families is what sets us apart from other funeral homes in the area. We have a beautiful culture here with the capacity to offer more meaning in our services because we give our funeral directors freedom to spend as much time as they need with each family. We encourage directors to connect with families at a deep level so they can comprehend their needs and personalize the service in a way that is unique to each family,” explains Jason.
The Texas firm is committed to remaining family-owned because being family-owned gives them liberty to measure their success based on long-term relationships and the values of their customers, instead of seeking to please stockholders who may hold different values. They are also very dedicated to maintaining a modern, comfortable atmosphere. Jason took a few notes from Jeff Stewart and Kris Seale of Funeral Directors Life Insurance Company when he developed the overall atmosphere of his funeral homes.
“Jeff and Kris are great. The atmosphere of the company was something that really stood out to me when I visited and something that I took note of to pass on to my staff as well. Seeing the way their team operated was very instrumental to me when it came time to develop my own team,” he explains.
The Harrell legacy has traditional roots, but they have adapted and changed with the times. In addition to updating the decor and overall design of each location, the firm also places a heavy importance on staying up to date with the latest technology as well.
“We feel that technology is a very, very important aspect of this industry. Mainly because the generation we are serving today has changed, it’s not the generation that my father was serving. Families expect it at this point and they value being able to stay connected. Our goal is to use technology to make the planning process convenient and flexible. Our families have access to software that allows them to begin the arrangement process from the comforts of their home, and the platform is capable of capturing imaging, videos, and other personalization memorabilia necessary to customize a service. Onsite, our customers increasingly desire WiFi connectivity and the ability to share audio and visual data via high-definition systems. Due to the ease of mobility in this generation, we also find a desire among families to be able to record and share services via technology. As the desires of our clients change, we are strategically poised to be able to meet their needs in the future,” says Jason.
Even after the funeral has ended, the Harrell team is still hard at work. They know that aftercare is a big part of the healing process for families. The Texas funeral home is committed to helping families complete the necessary tasks that are associated with the loss of life even after the service has ended.
“Our aftercare program really makes us unique. With a lot of funeral homes, when the service is over that is where the relationship ends. With us, we actually walk the family through a lot of the end stages and planning that takes place afterwards which can be confusing and overwhelming for families to go through alone. Things like canceling credit cards and bank accounts, transferring titles, understanding wills, etc. are a small sample of items our program includes to help families with. Our program can help guide a customer through twenty plus areas, including the items I just mentioned in a couple hours and alleviate the burden of trying to figure out who to contact and interacting with representatives alone. Our program isn’t just a binder than we hand out, we have a person who is available to help them through the process. Our staff does all the talking so our customers don’t have to state over and over the fact that their loved one is no longer with them,” he explains.
The Austin based firm also knows the importance of being flexible and changing with the times – a trait they attribute much of their success to. In an industry that is seeing innovation at a faster rate than ever before, funeral homes that refuse to accept the change will soon be left behind.
“As a business you always have to be willing to adapt to change. As our clients change, we change right alongside of them. Austin is growing so fast and cremation is increasing just as quickly here as it is in the rest of the country. To accommodate, we have our own onsite crematory that has helped us address this change and meet the needs of our community,” Jason emphasizes.
The Harrell Funeral Home tagline is Where Love Lives On which embodies the essence of who they are at the core and everything Arvin initially set out to achieve.
“Where Love Lives On – it’s what we live by. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. As we celebrate the legacy that has been left by others, whether that be by my father or the loved one of somebody we are serving, Where Love Lives On is the mantra we live by. Love lives on as we carry a family through the service and it lives on after the service as we walk that family through the aftercare process. Love lives on through our staff and how they serve each family. Without them we couldn’t do what we do today. We put genuine love into every step of the process, and we are here to ensure that love lives on – it’s the only way we serve our families,” expresses Jason.
Today Harrell Funeral Home continues to make Arvin Harrell proud as they serve their Austin community. Their modern facilities stay up to date with trends in the industry and technology all while offering personalized services and treating those they serve like family. At the end of the day, the Harrell team has one goal in mind when it comes to the families they serve – to be the place Where Love Lives On. Families come to the Austin funeral home in some of the most difficult times knowing they will be welcomed with open arms and fully taken care of in a way that will ensure the memory of their loved one lives on. FBA