From The Top: Ray Jones, Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home
By David Sharos For The Sun September 13, 2012 6:54PM
Ray Jones, owner of Naperville’s Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home, 44 S. Mill St.
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:26AM
Helping families at the end of a loved one’s life might seem like a difficult career choice. For Ray Jones, owner of Naperville’s Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home, 44 S. Mill St., becoming a funeral director was his primary focus since he was in grade school.
Jones, 69, gained experience early by doing odd jobs for funeral homes in Joliet where he grew up. The sudden death of his father when he was just in first grade proved to be a key influence in what has been his life’s work.
“I washed windows and raked leaves, and actually this was something I would tell people I was going to do when they’d ask what you wanted to be when you grew up,” Jones said. “I wrote a term paper about it in eighth grade, and it certainly drew a lot of attention.”
Jones attended Joliet Junior College and earned a degree in pre-mortuary science before moving on to Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago. From there he began working at the Friedrich Funeral Home in Naperville in 1965 and purchased it in 1977. He eventually took over a second location in Plainfield.
The key to finding satisfaction in his work and helping so many families, Jones said, “is to be a good listener.”
“Every situation is different, and there is no cookie-cutter method to this,” Jones said. “You have everything from people who are elderly and have been dying because of a long illness, to the sudden tragic death of a young person, either from a traffic accident or perhaps a drug overdose.
“When you listen to people and their needs and desires, you usually get satisfied people who are a lot happier.”
Jones said, if necessary, he works at either of two locations seven days a week. His twin children, son David and daughter Stephanie, each works alongside their father handling a variety of business matters and the day-to-day operations.
Jeffrey Wey, 52, one of the business’s seven funeral directors, said Jones “has an awesome work ethic and is dedicated to the community he serves.”
“Ray is involved in the community in so many ways, and he continues to go above and beyond to help our clients,” Wey said. “I’ve been with him now for 26 years, and this isn’t something that has been about money. No one gets into the funeral home business to become wealthy — it’s about wanting to help people. Ray is someone people can trust, and he takes care of them.”
The list of organizations he has served in Naperville over the years would easily put him in a Who’s Who of Naperville. Throughout the years, Jones has been active in the YMCA, Little Friends and the Edward Foundation, and has served as a police and fire commissioner.
Like any business, being a funeral director has evolved over the years, and Jones said families today have expanded the types of services and venues they want to honor their loved ones.
“About 85 percent of the people have a traditional wake and service, but some people are having celebrations of a loved one’s life at country clubs or at their own homes,” he said. “The biggest obstacle I have is to help people work through things when a tragedy happens, and they aren’t prepared.”
Jones admits he has thought about his own funeral someday and said he would like it to be traditional but upbeat.
“I would like a traditional visitation and a Christian burial, and I have some people in mind that live in town I would like to be my pall bearers,” he said. “Overall, I’d like it to be a celebration because I enjoy a good party.”
Jones and his wife, Marilyn, have made their home in Naperville since 1965, and for them, “the community is a special place.”
“I’ve seen this community grow from 12,000 people to where it is today, but there is still that small-town warmth,” Jones said. “The people I’ve been associated with over the years have really been special.”
Send recommendations for From the Top to Dave Sharos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to send their name, phone number and email address.