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East County Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2020 1 week ago

Funeral home planned for Lakewood Ranch

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Robert Toale and Sons is in the permitting stage for a Lakewood Ranch Boulevard/44th Avenue location.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

Lakewood Ranch residents have plenty of accounting options to take care of one of life's two certainties — their taxes.

Death, however, has been another story.

Enter Robert Toale and Sons Funeral Home.

The company, which currently operates two funeral homes in Sarasota and one in Bradenton, is planning a new facility at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and 44th Avenue. The venue will be able to hold two services at once and will be the only funeral home in Lakewood Ranch.

The funeral home is still in the planning and design stage, and there is not yet a target date for completion. But Jason Toale, the company’s vice president of operations, said the company is working with Lakewood Ranch and hopes to begin the development stage by late this year.

Services are held in the "celebration of life" center. Rather than pews, it features round tables to facilitate conversation among guests.

While many aspects of the incoming Lakewood Ranch facility are in flux, a couple of features have been decided. First, there’s the “celebration of life” center, where services are held. As part of the modern setup, it is filled with round tables instead of pews. Toale said the tables provide an atmosphere that is more conducive to conversation, allowing family and friends to have a “healing experience.”

“It's not the standard funeral home that people think of,” Toale said. “It’s not going to be pews and dark and sad. It's going to be light and bright and uplifting and very contemporary. If we were in a pew, I would be talking to the back of your head.”

Centerpieces such as this one are part of Toale and Sons' "life story" feature. A life story is decor featuring themes and memorabilia that were important to the deceased.

Another integral feature is the “life story” — which is basically decor based on themes and memorabilia that were important to the deceased. The entire room is incorporated in the design, and theme can be anything from the beach to Christmas (complete with Christmas trees, toy trains and freshly baked sugar cookies). The company even wheeled a motorcycle into the room for one service. The themes often spark conversation.

“[Someone might] say, ‘Hey, you know, I didn't know your dad was into the beach that much. You know, tell me a little bit more.’ So it's therapeutic for the families, too, because they get to tell the fun stories of going to the beach with their dad when they were younger.”

Toale said the location was chosen for its accessibility and noted his organization is excited to get involved in the expanding community.

He said it will be important for him to get to know the community as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the residents to come to him.

“We have to put the standards higher on ourselves and live up to the expectations of the community," he said. 

Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

See All Articles by Brendan

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