Roger Royse, funeral director for half a century, dies at 69
There was something odd about Roger Royse’s funeral Monday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Corydon. Roger wasn’t there to direct it. Roger Royse’s name was synonymous with funerals. The tall, slightly stooped man with the gentle manner and wry smile had quietly managed literally thousands of funerals since he got involved in his family’s mortuary business as a youngster, carrying flowers. But on Tuesday, his daughter, Lou Anne Royse, was in charge of ‘the arrangements.’
‘It was an honor,’ she said later that day, after her father was buried at St. Joseph Cemetery in Corydon. ‘I just kept thinking what Dad did for Grandma (Mabel Gehlbach) and Grandpa’s (Clarence Gehlbach) services. I wanted to do him proud.’
Royse, 69, president of Gehlbach & Royse Funeral Homes Inc. in Corydon and Georgetown, died peacefully Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004, at 9:30 p.m. at Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services in New Albany after a long battle with diabetes and kidney failure. A stroke he suffered two weeks before Christmas had made things even worse. It affected his throat and made swallowing difficult.
His wife, Laura (Dookie) Sibert Royse, said, ‘He said he was like an old car. Everytime something got fixed, something else would break down.’ They would have been married 48 years this Dec. 30.
Dookie said her husband could have chosen to continue on kidney dialysis, but the prospects for improving his life were nil. He chose not to do it.
Royse was born Sept. 26, 1934. His parents were Geneva and J.V. (Dude) Royse. His funeral home business was started in 1916 by his grandfather, Clarence Gehlbach, and Gehlbach’s brother-in-law, Ray Resch of Lanesville. Back in those days, for Lanesville families who preferred it, viewing was done at the Resch home in Lanesville, and the preparation was done at the funeral home in Corydon.
Roger graduated from the Kentucky School of Embalming in Louisville in 1953 and went right to work for Clarence. Roger bought Resch’s share of the business in the early 1960s. He was a licensed funeral director and embalmer for 51 years.
Roger and Dookie built the Georgetown home 34 years ago.
Royse was Harrison County coroner for 16 years. He was an emergency medical technician and operated an ambulance service until the early 1980s.
He was a member of National Funeral Directors Association, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Corydon, Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus, Sportsman’s Club, the Moose Lodge, Fraternal Order of Eagles, the former Corydon JayCees, Optimist Club, Corydon Country Club and the Redmens Club, and he was invited to be a member of National Selected Morticians.
He was preceded in death by a daughter, Julie Ann Royse.
In addition to Dookie and Lou Anne, his other survivors include daughter Holly M. Glordan of Corydon; a brother, J. Frederick Royse of Corydon, and four grandsons.
The Rev. Ken Gering of Louisville, formerly pastor at St. Joseph and now chaplain at Providence Nursing Home in Clarksville, presided at the funeral Mass, assisted by the Rev. Harold A. Ripperger of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Corydon. The Rev. Roy McClain, pastor of Georgetown Christian Church, also spoke. All had known Royse for years.
McClain said he and Royse had 200 funerals together. He said Royse lived a life of service and caring for others, helping them through very difficult times. ‘His life was over, in a sense, when he couldn’t do that anymore,’ McClain said.
He said there was nothing ostentatious or pretentious about the funeral director, whose hobbies were playing cards at the Sportsman’s Club monthly dinner meetings and playing the horses at Churchill Downs in Louisville. He was a ‘conservative bettor,’ Dookie said.
McClain said Royse treated everyone the same. Whether it was a $10,000 funeral or one paid for by the county, ‘the service was the same for everyone,’ McClain said. ‘He was kind, considerate and thoughtful.’
Pallbearers were Jonathan and J. Zachary Windell, Scott Glordan, Brian Miller, Thomas Webb and George C. Webb II.
The family suggests memorial gifts to St. Joseph’s Parish Hall Building Fund or the Harrison Education Animal Responsibility Team (HEART Humane Society).