Local woman knew early funeral home work was right choice for her

Frankie Bennett and husband Jason own 6 funeral homes: ‘I love what I do.’

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Not many seventh-graders know what they want to become when they get older, and fewer still might think it involves the funeral home industry.

Frankie Bennett — who with her husband, Jason Bennett, now owns six funeral homes — remembers the moment in seventh grade when she made her choice.

She and her mother were touring a then bed and breakfast in Springfield and she saw a funeral going on next door. She looked into the field, took some classes her senior year at Shawnee High School and then Clark State College, before attending mortuary school and graduating when she was 21.

“With me not having any family members in the funeral industry, it was just something that I wanted to do. A lot of funeral homes are generation after generation that take it over ... whereas, it was a choice for me, and I love what I do,” she said.

The Bennetts own Jackson Lytle & Lewis Life Celebration Center in Springfield, Ingling Williams & Lewis Funeral Homes in South Charleston, Jackson Lytle & Lewis Funeral Homes in Yellow Springs, Walter & Lewis Funeral Home in Urbana, and two Atkinson Feucht Hare Funeral Homes in Massillon.

The Bennetts, who have six dogs, were born and raised in the Springfield area and have been married 17 years. Jason Bennett said they felt a calling to serve when they bought the funeral homes.

“When you think about how you spend your time in life and 80% of it is it work, I think having the opportunity to manifest that destiny is rewarding within itself because we know the energy that we’re putting in is rewarding in the long run,” he said. “We don’t see success as monetary, but how we invest what our time is in that day, that week, that month and how it prevails to move forward.”

Frankie Bennett graduated from Shawnee High School, from The Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science in 2006, did her apprenticeship in Dayton and started working at Jackson Lytle & Lewis in 2007 as the funeral director and embalmer for the next 15 years until 2022.

Jason Bennett attended Southeastern High School, graduated from Greenon High School, received his bachelor’s in business from Wittenberg University and a master’s in business administration from Cedarville University. He has worked for Pepsi Co. for the past 21 years and has served his apprenticeship to become a licensed funeral director.

The couple purchased the funeral homes in 2022 from Frank Lewis. Frankie is the operational side and Jason is the business side, the Bennetts said.

“We had a good relationship with Frank, and he knew that he wanted the business to stay with somebody in the community and things just fell into place,” Frankie Bennett said. “There was no reason to not purchase it ... We were in the right place, and it was clearly something that was supposed to be, and God wanted us to be here.”

The restorative side of funeral services is what drew Frankie Bennett into the business, feeling wonderful to help a family that has been told by others they cannot view their loved one. However, she said, the funeral directing side is most rewarding “to be able to have that connection with families.”

“It’s incredible just to know how much you can touch somebody just by placing their hand in yours, just to tell them silently that you’re there and you want to help,” she said.

Although most people don’t want to talk about funerals unless they need the service, Jason Bennett said for them, it offers a sense of belonging.

“We can help people in a time of need, and I think that’s a hard thing to do because it’s such an emotional journey, especially when somebody loses someone that’s not planned,” he said.

Another big part of the business, the couple said, is the pet side, which they said accounts for up to 95% of their business.

“Pets are a pretty dear part of our lives ... so we know the pain of losing a pet,” Frankie Bennett said. “We love our pets and we treat everybody else’s like they were ours.”

The Springfield funeral home is led by three women who are licensed funeral directors and embalmers, as well as two administrators and part-time staff.

“We’re pretty proud of that. It’s an industry that historically was always male-driven, and it’s very much turning to more women getting into the industry... Women are growing and we’re pretty proud of the three women that we have,” Frankie Bennett said.

Through funeral services, the couple wants to celebrate who a person was, even in a non-traditional way. Frankie Bennett said they have had ice cream socials before because the person had loved ice cream, and they even did a dinosaur theme because a young boy used to love them.

“There are so many more options than just your traditional funeral service, but people don’t think about that especially in their time of grief. They’re relying on me and they’re relying on the funeral director to say ‘Hey, why don’t we do this?” she said.

The funeral home also donates their services for anyone younger than 21 that’s not married and to law enforcement, firefighters and civil servants who died in the line of duty because they “don’t feel that, with children, with an officer that has put his life on the line, that if something happens tragically to any of them, that their family should have the financial burden of worrying about how to pay for it.”

Along with the funeral services, the Bennetts also have the Senior Dream Center and Honor Field.

The Senior Dream Center is for senior citizens who have a need, want or dream of doing but can’t financially or physically. The funeral home program seeks to help them. For example, a woman in a local nursing home who was raised with horses wanted to pet a horse again one more time, so they arranged to have one brought to the nursing home so she could. Other things have included a lift chair, furniture items and even trips to see family members out of state.

The Honor Field includes about 250 to 300 flags in the front yard of the Springfield funeral home around Flag Day to honor veterans. People can purchase flags and donate, which is then given back to the community, such as purchasing a van for veterans agencies or giving to law enforcement so they can take kids fishing.

“It’s a good way for us to take the business element and then invest it back into the community,” Jason Bennett said.

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