Local funeral home operator finds her passion

Kathleen Lowes Sanvidge in her office at Townley & Wheeler funeral home in Ballston Lake.
KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTERKathleen Lowes Sanvidge in her office at Townley & Wheeler funeral home in Ballston Lake. KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

BALLSTON LAKE — A local businesswoman has breathed new life into the area’s funeral business, and recently became the only funeral home in the state to receive recognition for being woman-owned.

Kathleen Lowes Sanvidge, 44, a graduate of the Shenendehowa School District, received her degree in mortuary sciences from Hudson Valley Community College. According to her, being a funeral director was something she had always known she wanted to pursue, ever since she was exposed to it through a high school program.

“I feel so lucky and blessed that I listened to what my calling was, and that I followed through,” she said, adding that she places great value in helping people.

After completing a residency and getting a job at a local funeral home, she jumped at the chance to buy Townley & Wheeler funeral home in 2013 from the original owners, before a larger business swooped in and snapped up the small local funeral home.

“We’re becoming extinct, the little guys like us,” Lowes Sanvidge said.

Now, four years after she bought the business, Lowes Sandvidge is looking ahead to expand smartly, but not lose her community base. After her first year of owning the home, she built an addition to the building, and is planning another, more handicap friendly addition for the spring. She works with a small, close knit staff who are also members of the community, and opens the funeral home, which doubles as her home, to all of the families she works with. Lowes Sandvidge’s clients have access to her 24 hours a day via cell phone or social media, which she utilizes frequently.

“I go to bed and the phone rings and I gotta go,” she said. Lowes Sanvidge uses mainly Facebook to stay in touch with her clients, to meet new clients, and even to provided her families with services other funeral homes do not typically offer, such as webcasting funerals to people who live out of state or beyond and cannot attend the funerals of their relatives.

Recently, Lowes Sanvidge earned a feather for her cap: she received a New York State certification as a Women Business Enterprise for the funeral home. Lowes Sanvidge’s funeral home is the first to be certified as such. The state’s goal with the certification is to provide equal opportunities to businesses owned by women and minorities by providing them with state contracts in their varying fields.

The certification could lead to an expansion of business for Lowes Sanvidge, she said. If she decides to move forward with the process, she said she might look into providing funeral services for prisoners, or wards of the state in places such as nursing homes.

They’re people too,” Lowes Sanvidge said of the people who usually do not receive funeral services. Just this hanging on my wall, being certified, I’m really proud. I can hold my head high and say, I am legit, I am one hundred percent woman owned.”

Though the certification could lead to business expansion, Lowes Sanvidge doesn’t want to jump right into the process.

“I can see growth, but I don’t want to grow too big for my britches,” she said. “It’s just about keeping everybody comfortable and well attended to, and cared for. I’m just going to keep on striving to do that.”