Sunday, April 22, 2018
News Roundup

Early Moss-Feaster funeral home location is razed after 70 years

CLEARWATER — When it opened its doors in 1939, the brand-new white building was ahead of its time. A little like a church, a little like a private home, the Moss Funeral Home became the first structure in the Clearwater area designed specifically as a funeral home, according to Moss-Feaster Funeral Home and Cremation Services, the company's name since 1985.

For more than 70 years, the anchor of one of the Tampa Bay area's oldest funeral chains stood proud at 802 N Fort Harrison Blvd., a kind of holy customs office for the social elite on their way to the next life.

That was then.

On Monday, the old funeral home — known affectionately to employees as "The Fort" — was demolished. With four other locations in Pinellas County, Moss-Feaster closed the home three years ago after the owners decided it was too costly to maintain.

"This is the passing of an era," said Rick Chesler, 59, a Moss-Feaster funeral director since 1980. Behind him, the jaws of a Caterpillar methodically bit into what was left of the home.

Jack Moss founded Moss Funeral Home in 1932 a few blocks away, at 811 N Fort Harrison. His wife, Ann, one of the first female funeral directors in Florida, worked in tandem with him. They soon outgrew the site.

The couple built the new home with a basement that would house the ambulance service they ran for decades and, later, a crematory. The Mosses added a second story to part of the house, with a distinctive hip roof. Staffers lived there and were on call 24-7.

The home's location caught the attention of wealthy residents driving to waterfront homes or coming home from Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church.

"It kind of surprises you that N Fort Harrison was a good address in the old days," said Mike Sanders, 67, a historian of Clearwater.

Jack Moss became known as a heavy hitter for charities, engendering goodwill.

"The Moss family and the funeral home they had, it was just an outstanding contribution to funeral service in this state," said John S. Rhodes III, 65, a third-generation funeral director and former owner.

Moss died in 1974, leaving the business to partners. Moss Funeral Home was acquired by Houston-based Service Corporation International in 1977, Chesler said. SCI bought Feaster Memorial Homes in 1984; Moss-Feaster was created the next year.

As other locations sprang up, the Fort held its own among staffers for its cachet as the real thing, the original article.

It also was the most somber.

"You'd walk in, it was dark," said Joseph Magaddino, a 20-year Moss-Feaster funeral director. "You'd hear church music."

Magaddino now serves as the location manager for a Moss-Feaster home on Indian Rocks Road in Largo. He stood Monday in his "celebration gathering room" amid banquet-sized tables and chairs. Moss-Feaster dispensed with pews about four years ago, in keeping with a wider movement to adapt services to the needs of customers.

"Today's society of baby boomers now, they are more educated," Magaddino said. "They want more options, and they want to get to the point."

The tables were still draped with wide swaths of blue paper, recently accompanied by red doilies for the memorial of a Chicago Cubs fan. Themed memorial services emphasizing celebration are on the upswing, Magaddino said.

A small room full of urns reflects Americans' growing preference for cremation, a less costly option that is affecting funeral homes' bottom lines.

"To get into the funeral business today," Rhodes said, "you've got to jump-start to high volume, low revenue."

SCI, Moss-Feaster's corporate parent and by far the country's largest funeral and burial provider, owned 1,437 funeral homes in 2012, according to Funeral Service Insider. Earlier this year, it announced a $1.4-billion deal to buy its next-largest competitor, which had 217 locations.

It's a climate that might not have suited Jack and Ann Moss. On Monday, Chesler watched as the Caterpillar swatted down the hip roof of the Fort.

"It brings a tear to your eye," he said.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

 
Comments
Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Members of the Rays organization sent their thoughts and prayers to former teammate Danny Farquhar, who was hospitalized Saturday night in Chicago in stable but critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.Farqu...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

After a two-hour weather delay Saturday evening at USF, the remote local threat of lightning finally dissipated.The postseason intensity never did.For the second consecutive night, the UCF-USF baseball series delivered, this time with the Bulls (25-1...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

The original Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in 2012 was inspired by the how the Florida black bear roamed ó and the space it needed to do so successfully. In 2010, expedition team member Joe Guthrie conducted research through the University of ...
Published: 04/22/18
Athleticsí Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

Athleticsí Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. – Sean Manaea watched as Marcus Semien fired a ball from short to second baseman Jed Lowrie, turned around, and jumped into the arms of catcher Jonathan Lucroy. History was made at the Coliseum.Manaea no-hit the Red Sox on ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

BOSTON — Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored 1:19 apart in the second period, and then the Maple Leafs killed off a 5-on-3 and three more power plays in a row to beat the Bruins 4-3 in Game 5 on Saturday night and avoid playoff eliminatio...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How the NHLís top offense went on the defensive

Lightning-Devils: How the NHLís top offense went on the defensive

TAMPA — It was a couple of days after the Lightning beat the Bruins at home late in the regular season when associate coach Rick Bowness talked about how the defensive effort used in that shutout victory was the one the Lightning would need in ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Updated: 9 hours ago