Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TOP STORY >> Funeral home ready to serve

Leader staff writer

A Natural State Funeral Service plans on “serving Arkansas with dignity and respect” after opening for business last week at 2620 W. Main St. in Jacksonville.

The new Jacksonville-based RPS Ventures Inc. owns the full-service home with an on-site crematory and Serenity Garden Cemetery at 6512 T.P. White Drive.

Matt Robinson is the company’s president. Former state Rep. Mark Perry of Jacksonville, the vice president, treasurer Stephen Savage and board member Logan Perry also own RPS Ventures.

About why they set up shop here, Robinson said, “Jacksonville is our hometown, and what’s a better place to start serving people who need our service at a price they can afford?”

Complete church funeral plans start at $2,870 and include a high-quality 20-gauge stainless steel casket, he continued. Direct cremations start at $645.

“Our goal with this whole business is to remember it’s a ministry, too. We really want to help the average person that cannot afford a funeral somewhere else. It’s going to be a quality service.”

The home plans to join the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and host a grand opening in September.

A Natural State Funeral Service will not only benefit the Jacksonville community, but help people statewide, according to its managers, who are Arkansas natives.

RPS Ventures has hired James (Stan) Youngblood as the managing funeral director and embalmer. He brings more than 20 years of experience in the field.

Youngblood is an Arkansas Tech and Louisiana Tech alum. He graduated from the Dallas Institution of Funeral Service mortuary school in Texas.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to be able to serve the people of Arkansas,” Youngblood said. “We feel like we’ve put together a good staff of people who care about Arkansans and will bring quality service to them.”

He also told The Leader that he chose this profession after growing up around a florist and funeral home. Youngblood recalled that experience beginning at age 10.

“Helping people (appealed to me). I’ve always considered myself a compassionate person. At the same time, I’ve always accepted challenges in business,” he said.

John Curtis Alexander Smith, the assistant managing funeral director/embalmer, has more than six years of experience.

He graduated from Henderson State University with a bachelor’s degree in business and earned an associate’s degree in mortuary science from the University of Arkansas Community College in Hope. He also received a certificate in funeral directing from there.

Smith said, “It’s exciting. It gives us an opportunity to really try to serve with a small-town feel and a good group of guys that really, truly value what the slogan is, and that’s dignity and respect. That’s what we hope to bring to the funeral industry here.”

He chose to pursue this career after he lost family members during his last year at Henderson and someone asked if he had considered attending mortuary school.

“I had the curiosity. It just intrigued me, and I looked into it. I haven’t looked back since,” Smith added.

The city business license for A Natural State Funeral Service was approved on June 11.

The company is in good standing, according to the secretary of state’s website.

It has purchased assets of the defunct Arkansas Funeral Care, which was shut down in late January for violating state laws. Its owners and an employee have pleaded not guilty to related criminal charges.

Robinson emphasized that RPS was not associated with Arkansas Funeral Care previously and is not associated with it now. A Natural State Funeral Service is opening with an all-new staff, including its owners and managers.

He also said A Natural State Funeral Service would be happy to honor pre-planned funeral arrangements purchased from Arkansas Funeral Care and match those prices “dollar for dollar.”