G orden Funeral Residence will mark its 102nd year in Allegan, but the firm actually dates back to the 1880s - in the community of Burnips - where Joseph Gorden, a furniture dealer, was called on to supply caskets for local funerals.
In those times, embalming was not required and furniture stores handled caskets more or less as a sideline. Gorden had heard that a teacher from the Worsham College of Mortuary Science would hold a one-day session in embalming in Grand Rapids and decided to attend.
This marked the beginning of the Gorden Funeral Residence. His son, Glenn, worked with his father for several years, then attended college and taught school. In 1908 he decided school teaching was not for him so he moved to Allegan to establish a funeral home, after taking special training and passing state board examinations.
The firm was first located at 312 Trowbridge St, adjacent to the present Allegan Post Office. In 1929, Gorden purchased a residence at 528 Trowbridge St. Recognizing the trend away from church and home funerals, the Gordens decided to remodel the house and add a chapel in which funerals could be held. This was completed in 1932, the first in an almost continuous series of such projects.
Gorden died in 1935 and the business was purchased in April, 1936 by Verne Moore and Lynn Chappell. In 1948, Chappell left to purchase the Birch Funeral Home in Fennville. Four years later, Joseph VanderVeen became associated with Moore and when Moore retired in 1964, purchased the business.
In 1975, the Switek Funeral Home in Hopkins was purchased and renamed Gorden Funeral Residence, Hopkins Chapel. The Nyberg Funeral Home on Ely St. in Allegan was purchased in 1981 and all services were moved to the Trowbridge location.
In 1984, Joe's son and his wife, Steve and Mary VanderVeen graduated from Mortuary School and became licensed funeral directors. They joined the family business, along with Joe's daughter, Debra Reed who managed the office. Steve and Debra purchased the business from their parents in 1992.