Shawnee resident returns home to open McElyea and Owens Funeral Group

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star

Shawnee resident Robert Owens recently returned to his hometown and opened McElyea and Owens Funeral Group in October.

According to Owens, the community has responded positively to his new facility, which he started with business partner Mike McElyea.

"Mike and I both came back to Shawnee to put this business in. We've been openly welcomed by the city of Shawnee, the Kiwanis Club and the churches have been very good to work with," Owens said. "We're thrilled to be back home."

Both Owens and McElyea worked in Shawnee and left the city for different reasons.

Owens moved to eastern Oklahoma with his wife to be closer to family.

"I worked for a funeral home out there and then eventually put my own funeral home in Henryetta that's still going strong," he said.

Shawnee resident Robert Owens, at far right, returned to his hometown to open his new funeral home McElyea and Owens Funeral Group. Also pictured from the business, from left, are John Winterringer, Bill Rosko and co-owner Mike McElyea.

He explained he retired from that business about two and half years ago and returned home after McElyea pitched the idea to open a funeral home in Shawnee.

"It just seemed like the right time and the right place. It just all came together nicely," he said.

McElyea and Owens have extensive backgrounds in funeral services.

Owens graduated from Shawnee High School in 1973 and attended Oklahoma Baptist University for a few years. He worked at The Shawnee News-Star for four years and attended The University of Central Oklahoma, where he received a degree for funeral services.

Owens said he was inspired by the funeral service industry after working with his father's business, which his father ran for 54 years in downtown Shawnee.

"After doing that for a while I accepted the market sales manager position with the corporate group that own the funeral homes here in Shawnee and I became a market sales manager," he said.

He explained he assisted with the marketing for 66 funeral homes and 13 cemeteries throughout Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.

He eventually returned to Shawnee to manage two funeral homes and then moved to eastern Oklahoma.

McElyea took over the funeral homes that Owens was managing after Owens moved to eastern Oklahoma and before he himself moved.

Then the two decided to return after several years away.

"It's kind of funny how we've come back together and come home together," he said. "What we find is that Shawnee has changed but it still has the same great people. I really like how Shawnee has changed."

For Owens, the best aspect of returning home is reconnecting with old friends.

"There's still a lot of people here that I went to high school with and it's just neat to get back together and visit with them," he said.

He explained it has been a challenge to start a new business, but his other business partner, John Winterringer and his family, have been helpful.

McElyea and Owens Funeral Group is located at 5106 N Harrison Street and offers various services.

The funeral director explained McElyea and Owens Funeral Group is unique to other funeral homes in Shawnee because it offers different services.

"What's interesting about our business is that many of the local funeral entities in this area are using outside services to actually make removals (when someone reports a death)," Owens said.

He explained McElyea and Owens Funeral Group will take people back to their refrigeration facility, which not many other entities contain.

This service gives people the opportunity to take a few days to figure out their plans if there is a sudden death in their family.

"We can take their loved one into our care until they're ready to make those types of decisions," Owens said.

Owens and McElyea have plans to expand their facility, including offering not only human cremation but also pet cremation, as well as their own chapel for people to hold funeral services.

"We will have our own cremation added on to our facility in the next 18 months or so," he said.

He said the chapel should be up and running by March of 2022.

McElyea and Owens Funeral Group is located at 5106 N. Harrison Street in Shawnee.

For more information visit mcelyea-owens.com/ or call (405) 695-5006.