Business Insider: Larry Johnson
Owner of Bowser-Johnson Funeral Chapel
“It was fascinating. It really was. I could look over the fence and watch the activity,” Johnson said. “My dad used to go over and help them if they had large people to lift. I thought I would like to do that, but of course I wasn’t big enough.
During those formative years, he came to know the funeral director and embalmer, who always took the time to talk with him and explain the business, taking on the role of mentor.
“He was quite a gentleman,” Johnson said. “I thought he was the cat’s meow when I was coming up. He used to play for the KC Monarchs. He was quite a man.
That man influenced not only Johnson’s career choice but also his professional style.
“He was quite a dignified, dressy man. He always wore spats,” Johnson said. “I usually dress up. I believe that’s what you ought to do. If you want to be a professional then you dress to be a professional.
Working on a Dream
Knowing that he wanted to be in the funeral business, Johnson answered phones and helped with clerical work at Gains and Sons Funeral Home while he was in college at Washburn University. He then attended embalming school in California before coming back to settle in Kansas. Johnson worked at funeral homes in Kansas City and Atchison, including Bowser Funeral Home while he earned his license and in the early years of his career.
In 1976, Johnson purchased Bowser Funeral Home and changed the name to Bowser-Johnson Funeral Chapel. He has been the owner-operator of the business for 38 years.
Taking Care of People
Johnson said his business is all about providing service and help to people at a time when they need it most. When people are grief-stricken, what they need most is for someone to take the time to listen.
“People need to talk sometimes,” Johnson said. “At a time when they are grieving, a lot of times if people can talk about it, they can work through it, and it’s not as painful. I try to guide them in the right direction to deal with their pain. Once they talk about it and work through it, they can grow from there.”
Johnson said the biggest challenge of the business is serving people who have little money. No matter the financial situation, most people want to honor their loved ones with a dignified funeral service. Johnson does his best to give all of his clients that ability.
Continuing to Serve
While Johnson says he does not exactly remember what he expected when he got into the business, he enjoys it because it has always been interesting.
“Everything is changing all the time,” Johnson said. “You deal with different people all the time. If you like people, you’ll enjoy it. If you don’t like people you shouldn’t be in this profession.”
After 38 years, he still appreciates the embalming aspect of his profession as well, mostly because he believes embalming helps people with the grieving process.
“I think any time you can prepare a loved one, and people come and see that loved one, you see them have peace and all the anxiety they had leaves them. That’s powerful,” Johnson said.