It is sort of like a changing of the guard at Weil Funeral Home, but not much will change.
Fourth-generation owner Bob Weil has sold the business to one of his long-time employees, Bill Kahn.
The closing was completed Monday, July 1. It marks the end of a Weil at the funeral home after more than 100 years in business.
After working 24/7 for more than 30 years, Weil said it was time to sell. It will now be called the Weil-Kahn Funeral Home
“I worked full time doing this job now for approximately 40 years,” he said. He turned 65 on Wednesday, July 3.
“I do have three sons – two live out of town, one in town, but none of them have any interest in the business,” he said. “Bill’s father (Sylvan) worked with my father and then with me. When he retired Bill came to work here and has worked with me for 30 years. And I can’t think of anybody more qualified or that I would want to have to take over the business than Bill if I don’t have a family member. He’s been kind of like a family member.”
Kahn was eager to take over the funeral home. He said the two talked about it for several years.
“I’ve been in the business for 30 years so I thought why wouldn’t I buy it,” Kahn said. “I love my job. I love helping the Jewish community, and this is just the progression, the normal progression as it should be. I’m the second generation of my family, so I want to go forward with it.”
Weil said, “We have somebody great we can trust and thrilled to sell to.”
The Weil business started as a horse livery service in downtown Cincinnati in the early 1800s that bought and sold heavy draught horses, and rented out the horses for events, including funerals.
In the early 1900s, a funeral firm was going out of business and Isaac Weil went to an auction to buy the horses, but ended up buying the business. The new firm was incorporated on March 6, 1912, as Weil Schell Company. Isaac’s three sons were involved in the business, and in 1917, bought an automobile hearse and promised the Jewish congregations, which all had their own horses, they would have use of it if the congregations got rid of their horses.
In 1919, the business was now owned by Gordon and Burt Weil, and the named changed to Weil Brothers Funeral Home. In 1925, the funeral home moved from downtown to North Avondale.
Another Weil brother, Sidney, handled all finances and investments for the family. They owned numerous parking lots and garages, and owned the Cincinnati Reds. Sidney was president of the Reds for six years.
But when the stock market crashed in 1929, the family lost everything except the funeral home.
Gordon’s son began working full time at the funeral home in 1951, and was treasurer of the Jewish funeral Directors of America for seven years. He retied in 1984.
Bill Kahn’s father Sylvan was hired in 1976. Bob Weil, Gordon Jr.’s son, began working at the funeral home in 1979. In 1990, when Sylvan retired, Bill Kahn joined the business.
Bob Weil felt it was necessary to move the funeral home from North Avondale to the northern suburbs to be closer to the Jewish communities, synagogues, hospital s and Jewish nursing home. In 2001, the current building on Cornell Road was opened.
A licensed funeral director Ben Lefton joined Weil in 2016 and is still working there.
Weil of course has seen many changes. The three biggest have been computerization, personalization and pre-arranging and pre-paying of funeral expenses.
“When I started 40 years ago we had a little folder with three or four notes in it, now we have draws and draws of pre-arranged funerals and some of them, many of them, are prepaid even,” Weil said.
“Everything is done by computer instead of by hand. Because of that we’re able to do things more personally.”
Not much will change with Bob retiring. Kahn said he will keep it in the “positive way we’ve always had it.
“We want to give a good transaction and I think that is most important, obviously, for the Jewish community of Cincinnati,” Khan said. “And that’s what Bob wanted. He was actually approached by other funeral homes and large conglomerates but he always gave me the first opportunity and he said he would.”
Weil said he was approached about 20 years ago by two big competing funeral corporations about selling.
“But I was young and had kids and I was not in any mood to sell unless they gave me an offer that knocked my socks off,” he said. “And, no, they gave me nice offers but I wasn’t ready to sell at that time.”
But the offers gave him the inspiration to move the funeral home to Symmes Township.
Weil will not step completely away. He plans to work part time for another few months. But he will have time to enjoy life.
“I’m a golfer so I like to play golf,” he said. “I like to travel. I spend some of my winters down south now. I’ve got three sons and four stepchildren and eight grandkids between myself and my wife. I’ll spend time with my family … and the rest remains to be seen.”
Kahn has learned from Weil about how to treat people.
“He’s a great person. He treats everybody with respect, every employee, obviously every family,” he said. “I emulate Bob. I’ve learned from him and that’s how I try to treat every family he way he did.”
Even though the two didn’t know each other when Kahn started at Weil Funeral Home, over the past 30 years the two have become great friends.
“We’ve done a lot of things together, he’s just a wonderful person,” Kahn said. “He’s never treated me with anything other than respect, and generosity, all the way to the end.
“It’s my privilege to take care of the Jewish community and I hope to do it for many years to come.”