The People's Tribune

Collier Funeral Home Will Have New Owners On Jan. 1

Al Smith Is Looking Forward To Retirement As Ryan & Stacey Bibb Purchase 55-Year-Old Business

Surrounded by photographs of his smiling family, Al Smith settles in at his desk and answers phone calls – gently tapping the volume button as he discusses upcoming funeral arrangements with a voice that is distinctly composed yet full of care and consideration, which has no doubt been cultivated over more than five decades in the business.

Smith will officially retire as the owner of Collier Funeral Home on Jan. 1, 2018. The business has been purchased by Ryan and Stacey Bibb who also own Bibb-Veach Funeral Homes in Bowling Green and Silex. The facility will continue to operate as Collier Funeral Home.

Smith admitted he’s looking forward to not taking so many phone calls every day, but is quick to note he’s grateful for the faith the community has placed in him over the years.

“I’ve had a rewarding life really,” he remarked. “I’ve always tried to help people the best I can. The people here have become like family after doing this for years. I hope they feel the same way about me.”

Smith started in the funeral business with his father-in-law, George M. Collier in 1962. Collier and his wife, Bernice, purchased the Frank C. Haley Funeral Home in downtown Louisiana. It remained there until the new facility at 117 Barnard Drive was built and opened in May of 1967. There was also a facility in Clarksville until the Mississippi River flood of 1993.

Smith graduated from the Kentucky School of Mortuary Science in 1965. The walls of his office are covered with the degrees and awards that Smith and Collier have earned over the years, along with many photos of their family.

In 2013 the family not only lost George, but also his oldest daughter, Gayle, who was Smith’s wife. They had one daughter, Paige, who is married to Jeff Alexander. The couple have four sons and reside in the St. Louis area, which is where Smith plans to move following retirement.

“As soon as I can get everything arranged I plan to move closer to them. It will be nice to see my grandsons more often,” he said.

Being in the funeral business requires a great deal of understanding from family members. Smith noted that plans and holidays are often interrupted, but the calls must be answered because it is never good news.

Many years ago funeral homes generally operated ambulance services as well.

“In those days the work seemed never-ending. You were always answering a call and it could be very tough. Sometimes it can be difficult to deal with so much loss.”

Smith said earning the trust of the community has been an important aspect throughout his years of service. He added that it’s why he feels confident in turning over the business to Bibb.

“Ryan knows what he’s doing. He treats families the way I tried to treat them – the way I like to see them treated,” Smith explained. “When you have a small operation you try to satisfy people. With a big, corporate place it’s about the money. Everyone is just another person. [Ryan] is an excellent fit for this business.”

Bibb said the tradition Collier Funeral Home has built over the years made the purchase attractive. He’s familiar with the facility, too. In the early days when he worked for John and Cathy Veach there were times he would help out at Collier.

“They have established a reputation for good service.”

Bibb added that his wife’s family is from Louisiana so there is a connection to the town. He noted that in this community the businesses didn’t view each other as “competition” in the past.

“We’ve always been colleagues. We just want to serve people.”

Bibb said he’s always had a great deal of respect for Smith and wished him well in his retirement.

Mark Capstick serves as a funeral director at Collier and will continue in that capacity. He’s been with the business since 1996. Lori Smith is a funeral director with Bibb-Veach Funeral Homes. Bibb pointed out that staff will likely help out at each location at certain times.

The Bibbs became partners with John and Cathy Veach in 2015 and the facilities in Bowling Green and Silex went from Mudd-Veach Funeral Homes to Bibb-Veach Funeral Homes.

“I enjoy helping people and being a part of the community,” Ryan noted at that time.

Bibb is a Bowling Green High School graduate from the class of 1998. He earned his degree in mortuary science in 2000 from St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. Ryan and Stacey married in 2002. He worked at a few different facilities before joining John and Cathy Veach as their first full-time employee in 2004.

Bibb says the science aspect of the business was especially interesting to him, but the emotional aspect is something for which he takes great care and respect.

“Helping a family through their loss and to find closure is a special thing. Knowing that families trust me with that is an honor,” he reflected.

Bibb also leans on his spirituality and is happy to help families who desire that religious aspect and comfort. He notes that his work helps him with his faith.

“It makes you value life in general and value the time with your family much more,” he said. “The reward of this job isn’t really a financial one. It’s something much more deep and personal.”

Bibb said he and Stacey looking forward to taking on the new responsibility. Stacey is taking classes to be licensed as a funeral director. She is a psychological examiner for the Troy School District. Ryan and Stacey have four children: Philip, Jack, Conor and Jorie.

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