HUNTERSVILLE – John and James Kepner bought Raymer Funeral Home in June 2011 with the objective of providing the same quality of service the Kepner family has given people in Wheeling, W. Va., for more than 165 years.

The family aspect of what is now Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home, located at 16901 S. Old Statesville Road, is a major focal point for John Kepner.

“It’s very important to me and it was vital that we run a family-oriented funeral home when we moved here,” he said. “We met the Raymers, who didn’t have the generations really to continue their tradition, and we wanted to continue their family tradition and ours, as well.”

The Raymer family owned the funeral home exclusively from 1998-2009 and were an integral part of its founding in 1989.

John Kepner said his brother, James, and James’ son, Alex, and the rest of the family now operates the Kepner funeral home business in West Virginia.

The Kepner family’s funeral services in Wheeling are that area’s longest-serving funeral business. While the Kepners haven’t been in Huntersville for very long, John, his wife, Claudia, and now son, Jonathan, hope to keep the business thriving and successful for the long term.

“We moved here because I’ve always liked North Carolina since I was a kid, and this area is a growing, thriving community,” John Kepner said. “We were drawn to this area because it’s good for business and we want to help the people here.”

The funeral home opened the first and only on-site crematory in North Mecklenburg last October.

But firsts aren’t common when it comes to the Kepners and funeral business. John is a fourth-generation funeral director.

The Kepner family has been in the business for seven generations with no plans of stopping anytime soon, John Kepner said.

“We started it in 1845 and it’s interesting that we’ve been able to pass the business down from generation to generation,” he said. “We were never forced to do it (growing up). It’s always been around the family, but we’ve all had interests outside of the funeral home business.

“I think that ultimately we were all drawn to it, but I’m thankful for that.”

Jonathan Kepner, now 26, first told his father he wanted to work in the family business in 2008. He still entertains goals of being a football coach, but the younger Kepner – who first began working in the business as a 13-year-old washing cars and later began driving hearses – decided to jump in, as well.

“It’s something that pleasantly surprised me,” John Kepner said. “It was never anything I forced on him but it makes me very proud as a father to be able to know my son is continuing what we’re doing because he has a passion for it.”

Jonathan Kepner said he felt a sense of pride when he joined the foray.

“It’s a great honor to be able to carry on something from multiple generations,” he said. “I’m very proud to go into this family business, and I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill, but I'm excited.”