It has been 30 years since Hap and Tracey Strunk took over the family business at Hickman-Strunk Funeral Home
Hap graduated from high school in 1979, and soon found himself learning from his first mentor, Maxine Waters at McCreary County Funeral Home.
“Maxine was a very gracious lady, the consummate professional,” he said. “She taught me a lot and made me decide to pursue providing funeral service as a career.”
He enrolled in mortuary school and then joined the staff at Alexander Funeral Home in Gallatin Tennessee, where Hap learned several important lessons from owner Paul D. Alexander that he still follows to this day.
“Paul was far and away the best funeral director I ever knew,” Hap said of his former boss. “Precision and accuracy were part of his regimen. And he taught me to do likewise.”
Under the tutelage of Alexander, Hap soon turned his eyes homeward and toward applying those lessons for the people where he had his roots.
“This is home,” Hap said. “I learned I wanted to go in to business for myself. Tracey and I wanted to serve the families of our community.”
The chance came in 1986, when Mildred Worley, daughter of founder Albert Hickman, contacted the young couple to ask if they would like to come home and take the reigns of the funeral home.
“The business has been in my family since 1924 so it was a wonderful opportunity to carry on the legacy,” he said.
After working with then Bank of McCreary County President David Ross to put together a deal, Hap and Tracey came home.
While still preserving the traditions and relationships of the established business, Hap and his wife quickly brought new ideas and innovations to McCreary County.
“The biggest thing we did was to start making improvements on the facility right away,” he said. “It had been in the current location for fifty years. We added parking and expanded the chapel to better serve our families.”
But, they didn’t just stop with cosmetic improvements, they brought modern funeral home services to the County as well.
“We were the first in the area to offer a 24-hour obituary line, video tributes and customizing services,” he said. “So many of the things we did were on the cutting edge for the time.”
Hap quickly points out that his wife deserves the credit for the modern touches.
“Tracey is vital to this business for her technical skills,” he said. “She began designing and printing programs on the computer long before they were available to just download. She had to do so much from scratch.”
Looking back over the past 30 years Hap still sees much of Paul Alexander’s touch on what they do at Hickman-Strunk.
“If he were here today he would recognize his influence on our service,” Hap said.
“Paul Alexander taught me that you have to have a servant’s heart to be in this business. You can not think of it as just a job. It is a way of life – you have to wear it like a suit of clothes. You devote your life to serving families.”
“I have gotten up from Christmas dinner many a time to serve a family. Not because I had to do it for my job, but because it was the right thing to do.”
“Each family deserves the same amount of respect and dedication. Everyone deserves the absolute best.”
“People ask me about the secret to success and I say it’s not rocket science: people will tell you what they want, you have to deliver it to them on their terms.”
“We have seen a lot of changes in what people want in a service over the years. You have to be willing and open to new ideas.”
30 years is a long time, but Hap and Tracey have no plans to step away from their beloved business any time soon. Hap says he doesn’t want to give up on the place he calls home.
“Tracey and I are involved in every aspect of the business every day,” he said. “We strive to provide the personal touch to every family that walks through the door. Every family is dealing with loss; we do our best to help them honor their loved one in the way they deserve.”