One Day: David Walden

Published 1:11 pm Monday, January 8, 2018

Kendra Peek/
David Walden, owner of Walden Funeral Home, writes out a check to a local flower shop on Friday.

Days vary for David Walden, owner of Walden Funeral Home in Perryville.

“Every day’s different,” Walden said on Friday, a day he was using to catch up on paperwork. “That’s what I, personally, like. Being in a small funeral home in a small community, you have the opportunity to do so many other things on a daily basis besides just your job.”

Things like visiting other businesses in Perryville and being involved in the community.

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“We came here with the intent to serve the community. We were looking for a small community. I like the days, just as much, that we aren’t busy.”

Walden and his wife Lea Ellen and their son Kyle bought the longtime funeral home from the Wilder family in 2015, renaming it the Walden Funeral Home earlier this year.

All three members of the family are licensed funeral directors, Lea Ellen and Kyle receiving their’s earlier this year, and David Walden is an embalmer.

Before moving to Perryville, Walden worked at Preston-Pruitt Funeral Home in Danville, then Ratterman and Sons Funeral Home in Louisville, where they had about 600 services a year.

In Perryville, they had about 50 last year.

“It’s like going from a race to a leisurely cross-country journey,” he said, which he appreciates.

He got his start at Ritchie & Peach Funeral Home in Lawrenceburg, after having worked 20 years in a factory setting.

Kendra Peek/
David Walden, owner of Walden Funeral Home in Perryville, talks about a small building which sits on the property. Walden said he was hoping to find a new home and owner for the building, which is need of some renovations and repairs, but will have to have it torn down if not.

“I wanted to do something where I could help people. God just opened the door,” Walden said. He was contacted by an acquaintance who owned the funeral home, asking him if he was interested in a job.

In general, Walden said, the number of people getting into the business has shrunk over the years. He thinks that’s because there’s a taboo for some people about the job.

“Most people think it’s creepy. It’s not creepy at all. I think most funeral home employees and owners are led to help other people. If you look at it that way, it’s not a job. It’s a calling and it’s very rewarding.”

A smaller funeral home requires being completely hands-on — Walden said they wash the windows, mow the yards and do maintenance themselves.

They also have three other part-time employees who help run services — a teenager who has expressed an interest in going into the business — and two part-time employees who help with maintenance and clean up at the funeral home and in the Perryville Cemetery.

During weeks they have multiple funerals, such as last week, having one day to catch up on paperwork is helpful, Walden said. They try to have every thing ordered and ready the evening before the service so they are ready to go the day of.

His favorite part of the process is embalming, Walden said, because of the transformation. Death is not always kind to a person, but he is able to help them look more like their family would have remembered.

Kendra Peek/
David Walden, owner of Walden Funeral Home, talks about the different casket options people can look through at the funeral home.

“We’ve got a saying, ‘Treat everyone like you would your mother.’ And I stick to that. You would want your mother to look her absolute best, so I stay with them until I’ve got them looking their absolute best,” he said. “That’s so rewarding, because the family comes in and it erases the picture of seeing them die or seeing them after death and replaces it with a more favorable picture of their loved one.”

It’s called a lasting memory picture, and he wants everyone’s to be the best it can.

Walden said he was a little hesitant about how the family would be received, purchasing the established Perryville business. But the Wilders were certain he would be accepted.

“This has been the warmest, most welcoming community I’ve been a part of in my entire life … We love it here,” Walden said.

And he loves the job. “Everything we do is focused on helping someone else. Even when the funeral is over and the person has been taken to the cemetery and buried, you’re helping the families file insurance claims. Everything we do is focused on helping the families we serve. There’s nothing more rewarding than that.”

He has no ambitions of leaving the business anytime soon. “I don’t plan to slow down or retire — maybe just take a few more vacations.”

It does get physically hard at times, he said. Walden jokes he’s getting “older and fatter and less limber.”

“You can say fatter, it’s okay,” he said, smiling. “That’s where the younger guys come in and help you out a whole lot.”

It’s also emotionally demanding, especially in a small community.

“When you know everybody, you’re taking care of people you’ve grown to know and love … You as a human being, even though you’re a funeral director and you have a job to, you can’t help but feel their emotion and for that to rub off on you a little bit. That emotional part has never been real difficult, because I’m where God called me to be.

“When I agreed to do this job, he said he would take care of me.”