Nfld. & Labrador

N.L.'s only casket maker honoured with funeral procession of hearses

Kevin Dalton, who owned Dalton's Casket Manufacturing in Cape Broyle, died this spring. Colleagues marked his life in a ceremony on Friday.

Kevin Dalton laid to rest in Cape Broyle

Hearses from a number of local funeral homes joined the procession to honour casket maker Kevin Dalton on Friday morning. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The owner of Newfoundland and Labrador's only casket-making company had a large sendoff Friday morning on the Avalon Peninsula's Southern Shore, with a lengthy funeral procession that included hearses from industry colleagues.

Friends and family also joined the queue to pay their respects to Kevin Dalton.

Dalton, who owned Dalton's Casket Manufacturing in Cape Broyle for almost 30 years, died at the end of March at the age of 58, with Friday marking the public celebration of his life.

One of those in the procession was Joe Ryan, owner of Ryan's Funeral Home in Bay Bulls. It was an emotional morning for Ryan, who had known Dalton since the two were teenagers, long before they both ended up working alongside each other.

Ryan said Dalton leaves behind a huge hole in the lives of the people he knew.

"Kevin kind of touched the heart of everybody that he did meet, he was that kind of person. Once you got to know Kevin, that was it — you had a friend, you had a friend for life," said Ryan.

Imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit — Dalton had a hand in a number of businesses in and around the community — Ryan said Dalton happened across the casket business for sale and decided to "give it a go" in 1991. 

The business continues to this day, and Ryan said a lot of literal sweat was shed over the years manufacturing the province's only wooden caskets.

"A lot of work goes into making wooden caskets. A lot of finish work, a lot of time," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"It's not like pressing a button."

A personal touch

Dalton had a big heart, said Ryan, and that personal touch carried over into his business.

"When Kevin got into the business, he went to meet his customers. He didn't just talk to them on the phone," said Ryan.

"He got in his vehicle and he went to the Northern Peninsula, he went to the west coast, he went to central Newfoundland. Very personal, when it came to his business."

While COVID-19 restrictions limited the number of people allowed into the church, prior to the ceremony Ryan predicted there'd be many waiting outside just to be able to pay their respects to a man who touched many in the community.

"They want to be there, just because of who it is," he said.

"It's going to be a hard day, a very hard day."

Ryan said Dalton's family is committed to keeping the casket business running.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show