There were some raised eyebrows when John Green opened his own funeral home in Port Hawkesbury shortly after graduating from high school.
It may have seemed like an unconventional career, but now he’s celebrating 20 years in business — something he says many people find surprising since he’s just 41 years old.
Green isn’t sure what drew him to funeral services, but he found himself working in several funeral homes as part of a co-op program when he was in Grade 12. While completing two years of post-secondary education, he continued to assist with funeral services on the weekends.
When he was just 21 years old, Green purchased the Bernard Street property on the auspicious date of 9/9/99 — Sept. 9, 1999. It had operated as a funeral home since 1969, so his first task was renovating it into a comfortable, home-like environment with soft paint colours and local art.
Green’s Funeral Home opened officially on Sept. 25, 1999. Green admits it was “a lot of responsibility to have at the age of 21,” but says he’s always found it rewarding to be running a small business in the community where he grew up.
“Most of my friends moved out west for the oil boom, but I was able to remain here and run my own business where I can provide a meaningful service,” says Green. “As cliche as it sounds, it really feels like yesterday that I took possession of the funeral home, but I’ve dedicated my entire career — the last 20 years — to funeral services.”
Today, Green’s Funeral Home is hosting more funerals than ever before. Green works with families from across the four counties — Inverness, Richmond, Antigonish and Guysborough — and he continues to update the facility each year. The most recent addition is a 120-seat chapel so families can choose to have a chapel service led by a minister, priest or funeral celebrant. Now the building is more than twice as large as it was when he purchased it 20 years ago.
Green’s father, Francis, has recently retired and taken an active role in the funeral home in addition to assisting his son with funerals. Green says his father was instrumental in the recent expansion of the funeral home. While Green also relies on the help of longtime memorial secretary Catherine Cogswell, it’s Green himself who meets with families, makes arrangements and provides dignified service with warmth and compassion.
“A lot of times, it’s not what we say or do — it’s how we understand that every life that’s been lived has a story to tell,” says Green. “Listening to their loved ones tell us that story gives us the opportunity to tailor a service that would be meaningful for the family.”
He’s currently serving his second term on the Funeral Service Association of Nova Scotia’s board of directors (for which he’s served as president twice before). He’s also been president of the Funeral Services Association of Canada, chair of the Atlantic Provinces Funeral Directors and Service Convention and an examiner on the board for new funeral directors.
Green’s Funeral Home regularly hosts community outreach seminars where Green invites members of the community to sit down to dinner while a panel of three experts speak on end-of-life topics such as wills, estate law and funeral pre-planning.
He says people often assume pre-planning a funeral is going to be too expensive, but he’s able to offer tailored programs to suit any budget — and it gives people the option to “lock in” today’s funeral costs.
“It lifts the burden from their loved ones by relieving decision-making pressure at a time of grief and emotional stress,” says Green. “It also ensures the choices you make will be carried out as planned.”
To this day, Green isn’t sure what inspired him to choose funeral services — but he’s very glad he did. He says he’s always had “a desire to help people,” and he’s been a volunteer firefighter with the Port Hastings Volunteer Fire Department for 24 years now.
Green says he feels fortunate to have been able to start his career at such a young age, and find a calling where he’s able to help people through the difficult process of grieving for a loved one.
Even after 20 years, Green says it’s still touching when he flips open the paper and sees a thoughtful thank you announcement from a family he’s worked with.
“It’s always a surprise to see such kind words from a family you’ve served. It’s the greatest compliment we can receive.”