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Shrewsbury’s Sumner House Grand Opening Event

SHREWSBURY, MA. – September 28, 2010 – After significant planning, thought and renovation, Heald & Chiampa Funeral Directors has officially opened their doors to help the families of Shrewsbury and surrounding communities navigate through one of the most difficult times in life.

James and John Heald and their partner David Chiampa, all decades-long Shrewsbury residents, took ownership of the historic and prestigious property known as The Sumner House on April 15, 2010.  Their goal was to fulfill their common lifelong dream of owning and operating a funeral home in the community where they live and have so many deep rooted relationships.

With their combined service of over 60 years, this group is reinventing funeral service as people know it today.  “We consider it our honor, duty and privilege to serve the families that choose us to help them plan a meaningful and memorable funeral,” says Jim Heald, manager and partner of Heald & Chiampa Funeral Directors.  “We are going to change the way funerals have been done through exceptional personal service and we will do it in a way that will honor, remember and celebrate a life lived,” he adds.

Located in the center of Shrewsbury adjacent to the Town Common, The Sumer House is a well-recognized landmark that has long been admired by residents and visitors alike.  Originally built in 1797, the home was used as a residence by the Reverend Joseph Sumner and his descendents through the late 1980s.  In recent years the property had been operated as a Bed & Breakfast until it was put on the real estate market, where it remained for an extended amount of time.

There was genuine concern and fear among Shrewsbury residents that the eventual sale of the Nationally Registered Historic Property would result in it being torn down and repurposed for commercial retail use.  The partners of Heald & Chiampa, however, recognized the home could be saved and restored to serve the broader community.  “I have always been intrigued with the property and its architecture.  In the past I had the chance to attend public functions hosted there and thought it would make a beautiful funeral home. I stopped by one Saturday morning to inquire about it and I am glad that I did…..the rest is history,” says partner John Heald. “We believe strongly that with this next phase of The Sumner House we have the opportunity to preserve its place in our town’s history, ensuring that it will continue to be an important gathering place for townsfolk, their family and friends,” Heald stated.

In their approach to revitalizing and restoring the property, the partners were committed to retaining the historical value and appearance of the home.  The group worked collaboratively with a number of different organizations and individuals to accomplish this goal.  Among those who provided the guidance and expertise allowing for this seamless transition were The Shrewsbury Historic Commission, The Architectural Access Board (governing ADA compliance), The Shrewsbury Garden Club and a diverse group of local civic leaders, officials and Town Board members.  While maintaining the structural integrity of the building, there have been a number of improvements made to the property including a 60-car parking lot, handicap access throughout and much more.

Heald & Chiampa Funeral Directors will welcome family, friends, the community of Shrewsbury and residents of surrounding areas to The Sumner House for a grand opening celebration on Saturday, October 16, 2010 from 2pm – 7pm.  As partner David Chiampa indicated, “We are looking forward to opening and sharing with the community what has been a culmination of hard work and dedication.”  He also adds, “We’ve preserved an iconic property and it will now serve the residents of Shrewsbury and beyond in a very meaningful, deep, and personal way.”

During the open house event, there will be a blessing of the home and a special dedication at 4:00 pm for the Heald’s father, Stephen W. Heald Sr., who passed away September 28, 2009.  Steve hailed from a family of funeral directors in his native Vermont and was a mentor and steward to his boys and they collectively shared the dream of a family owned funeral home in Shrewsbury.  In his final weeks, Steve asked his sons if it might be possible that his services take place at The Sumner House. After careful planning and appropriate compliance, he was told just days before he died that The Sumner House would be the place where his family and friends would gather to honor, remember and celebrate his life.  Knowing this fact gave him tremendous comfort and peace. When Steve passed just four days later, he was given a celebration of life that truly showed a community how to honor those who have passed before us. In bittersweet irony, it was the temporary use of The Sumner House for Steve Heald’s services that demonstrated how the property would succeed as a funeral home. Also, in another sign of Steve’s continued influence and spirit, Heald & Chiampa officially received clearance for its establishment certificate and licenses on September 28, 2010, the first anniversary of his death.

The Sumner House has been restored to its rightful place of prominence in the Shrewsbury community and will now serve those seeking to celebrate the lives of loved ones.  For further information about Heald & Chiampa Funeral Directors please visit www.healdchiampa.com.  To schedule a tour of the funeral home or learn more about the benefits of planning ahead, please call 508-842-3700 or email jim@healdchiampa.com.

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