Never must we overlook the necessity of helping one another - living, working and sharing life's joys and difficulties - especially in times of tragedy. We have to be realistic as we go through life and we learn early that in due course we will all die when our time comes. While we cannot go through life dwelling solely on the inevitable, we can give it some thought and make some preparations ahead of time to ease the burden which will fall on someone's shoulders later.
This objective of sympathetic understanding and assistance was established over 67 years ago by Arthur W. Fillatre, who lived at Sandy Point, Bay St. George, Newfoundland. It has been the basis of the business that has been built by his descendants, true pioneers of the funeral business in Western Newfoundland and Labrador.
In those days, and prior, it was customary for a funeral service to be organized by a group of friends of the bereaved family. A casket had to be built, a grave opened, a service arranged, and a multitude of other matters dealt with. Arthur Fillatre recognized the need to provide assistance and started by supplying caskets, artificial flowers, and making the necessary arrangements. This new service was greatly appreciated by grieving families and the business began to spread to other areas, commencing with Stephenville Crossing.
In 1954, Arthur's son, W. Maxwell (Max) Fillatre, after completing his funeral training with James Patten Funeral Home in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, opened Fillatre's Funeral Home in Curling, Bay of Islands, Newfoundland. Curling has been since incorporated into the City of Corner Brook. Maxwell (Max) Fillatre was originally a barber and the initial business was a barber shop with a funeral home attached. At the time of his opening, equipment consisted of a 1954 Ford Ranchwagon that was converted into a funeral coach, and a converted 1953 panel van served as an ambulance. He said later, "It wasn't the most luxurious beginning, but it served the purpose until better facilities could be obtained." The firm's first major expansion was in 1958, when the business was moved to its present location on Curling Street in Corner Brook. The second expansion was in 1963, when that building and its facilities were doubled in size.
Max was joined in the family business by his first son, Keith, in 1964 after Keith attended the Canadian School of Embalming in Toronto. In 1967 his second son, Kerry, joined the business.
As the funeral business grew the company expanded to Deer Lake, a town 30 miles from Corner Brook. The new home, fully staffed with experienced personnel, officially opened on May 28, 1968, and offered the residents of Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula the same facilities as the one in Corner Brook.
A third son, Ernie, joined the firm in 1974 after serving his apprenticeship with Ward Funeral Home in Ontario. His youngest son, Maxwell Jr. decided to attend the Humber College of Applied Arts & Technology in Toronto from where he graduated in 1981 and then joined his father and brothers in the family business. Max has since retired from the family business in 2007.
In 1985 a branch was opened in Port au Choix to serve the residents of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, and another in Stephenville Crossing for residents in Bay St. George, Port au Port Peninsula.
On April 5, 1986 Max's second son Kerry Fillatre suddenly and tragically passed away at the age of 36.
On April 22, 1987 tragedy suddenly hit again when we lost the founder and father of our company, William Maxwell (Max) Fillatre at the age of 58.
William Maxwell Fillatre had been vice-president of the Nova Scotia Funeral Directors' Services Association, a member of the National Selected Morticians and of the Associated Funeral Directors Association International. He was founder and first president of Newfoundland's funeral service association, and served on the board of the Newfoundland and Labrador Funeral Directors.
Max was active in the community, serving five terms on the Corner Brook city council and belonging to numerous organizations. He was elected to the city council when Corner Brook returned to elected municipal government in 1967 after several years under a commission of administration, and he remained on council until he retired from municipal politics in 1985. Fillatre was president of the Corner Brook Chamber of Commerce, a lifetime member of the Corner Brook Lions Club and the International Association of Lions Clubs, a founding member of the Elks lodge in Corner Brook, a member of Branch 13 of the Royal Canadian Legion, a Master Mason of Lodge Lomond of the Corner Brook Masonic Lodge, and for many years vice-president of the Westmount Club. He had also been an active member of the Blomidon Country Club, and in his early years he had been involved in the Corner Brook Hockey Association, as well as many charitable organizations in the city.
Then Corner Brook Mayor, Ray Pollett, described Max Fillatre as a "devoted" community leader. "As mayor of the city I would like to express shock and sadness at the sudden passing," Pollett said. "Max, as he was known to all of us, certainly was appreciated in the city and that was shown by his being elected four terms in succession to city council." Pollett said Fillatre was a "very influential businessman and through his profession, for which he had nothing but pride, he touched the lives of everybody on the west coast (of Newfoundland). Max was certainly a devoted family man and he was devoted to the community, that was shown by the number of community services he provided in these organizations," the mayor said.
In 1990 the main centre in Corner Brook was expanded and modernized and a second funeral home was opened on St. Marks Avenue in the east part of the growing City of Corner Brook. Keith Fillatre, now the president of Fillatre's Funeral Homes Limited, named the new Corner Brook facility the W. Maxwell Fillatre Memorial Funeral Home, in honour of his father.
Fillatre Funeral Homes has worked to make things as easy as possible for the families they serve. Directly across the street from the funeral home on St. Mark's Avenue, for example, the company has established a flower shop called Lasting Impressions Florists. Adjacent to the flower shop is Fillatre Memorials . our cemetery memorials division where they carry a large selection of monuments in stock at all times. By placing all three operations in such close proximity, Fillatre's has made it possible for families to make most of their major funeral arrangements at virtually the same location.
In 1991 another family member joined the team, Laura Fillatre. Laura is Keith's daughter and therefore represents the fourth generation of Fillatre's to be involved in the family funeral business. Laura attended Kingstec College in Kentville, NS and graduated with her funeral services diploma in June of 1991.
That same year a casket and service facility was opened in Lanse au Loup, Southern Labrador. Residents there felt that they had outgrown the old way of dealing with the loss of their loved ones and that they would benefit from a more professional input. We hope to develop this location into a full-fledged funeral home in the near future.
In March of 1999, Fillatre's opened a full service funeral home in Port aux Basques. From that time onward, residents in that town and many of the widely scattered small communities on the south west coast of Newfoundland were provided with much easier access to a first class facility for use in their time of need.
Fillatre's main branch on Curling Street in Corner Brook, which opened in 1954, continues to serve as the headquarters for the company. In addition to its funeral service facilities, all the administration for the whole company is handled at that location.
Keith W. Fillatre is president of the company and he is very proud of the business that his father, his brothers and he have built. Like his father before his, Keith feels that community involvement is the responsibility of all citizens. In addition to serving in other community and church organizations, Keith has been involved with the Western Memorial Hospital Corporation since 1982 and is credited as one of the founding members of the Western Memorial Regional Hospital Foundation, which began in 1987, serving in the position of chairman of the Board of Directors from 1987 to 1991 and he has been made a lifetime member of the foundation. In 1994 the Canadian society of Fund Raising executives presented Keith with a Certificate of Distinction as Outstanding Individual Philanthropist for his good works.
When Wm. Maxwell Fillatre began Fillatre Funeral Homes Ltd., he made friendly, professional affordable service his commitment; and that commitment is even stronger today. Throughout the growth of this company the carefully selected staff - understanding, sympathetic, helpful and at all times professional - provides arrangements and services appropriate to the wishes of the family and the person who has deceased with great dignity and solemnity. Following every funeral, the staff continues to offer support and advice as required by the families. Fillatre's take great pride in serving those who need them at all times and under all circumstances, endeavouring always to ease the burden of sorrow and loss which is inevitable at such times.
Fillatre's contribution to the various communities they serve is evident through their part in helping to build and improve various aspects of life and local activities. 2012 marked their 58th anniversary and now into their fourth generation, their dedication to service continues.