Staff & History
Johnson Pet Cremation Service was established in 1997, certainly not on a whim, only through careful thought and preparation by W. Clyde Johnson, the owner and longtime funeral director of Johnson Funeral Home, Locust Grove, Virginia. The funeral home was established in 1920 by Clyde’s father, J. Wistar Johnson. The funeral home became a “family business” in 1952, upon Wistar’s retirement. The business was passed onto W. Clyde Johnson. Clyde operated the business until his death in 2006. Therefore, his wife, Judy Johnson and a son, Ernie J. Johnson became proprietors of not only the funeral service but also the pet cremation service.
Ernie J. Johnson never considered another profession, from early childhood he was exposed to a life on the family farm, an ambulance service and the funeral profession. He became a licensed funeral director in 1997. Unlike many children, Ernie never had an allowance. He earned spending money by breeding and raising puppies and piglets. His beloved Springer, “Zany Zara,” had three litters. With proceeds from the sale of the puppies, he bought a horse that he named “Bucks,” not because he bucked, but because he had to spend his bucks to buy him. This family has loved many animals over the years; of course Zany, Tootsie, Bighead, Tippy, Millie, two Daffys, Dazzler, Deuce, Ditto, Bootsie, Rosie, Seabee and Grizzly, all dogs; Also, three ducks, Trent, Will and a rescue duck with a broken leg that was named Ducky-Lucky, and a feral kitty that was given a second chance, by the name of Zoey.
Deuce the Dalmatian became the family patriarch when he was brought home at the age of eight weeks. He quickly turned into a funeral dog by spending time in the office. Each time a family came in to make arrangements for a loved one, he would take a seat in a chair by the desk (the picture is on this brochure) and sit through the arrangements very quietly and glance over whenever someone became emotional, but he would not move. Seemingly, he knew that this was a very difficult time. During the years with us, he became attached to a neighbor that would stop by for a chat. Regrettably, this neighbor passed. During the funeral service, the time came to close the casket. Deuce, for the first time in ten years, made his way into the chapel, following Clyde down the center aisle, and stood silently until his task was completed. This beautiful dog, a replica of a southern gentleman, hung his head and tucked his tail in obvious grief for his friend. Everyone in attendance seemed to know that Deuce had lost his “best friend.” This story is one of many stories that we could share about the life of any pet, our absolutely unselfish friends that provide unconditional love.
Ernie’s wife, Tracy, a retired Orange County school teacher, is an invaluable asset to our business. They have two children; Will, age twelve and Maggie, age nine, the “hub” for the future. Maggie and Will have also shared their lives with many of these same pets and we trust that they understand the value of raising and loving a pet.
Both of our homes are located on the Johnson property that has been in the family for generations.
This business has two phases of operation, a single small unit, or crematorium for the cremation of pets, whose family prefers to have their pet’s cremains returned to them. This is referred to as a “private” cremation. The cost is based on the weight of the pet. This procedure is carefully planned through the veterinarian or by calling us directly. Either way, an appointment is made and the crematorium is put on hold and designated for only one pet. After cremation, the cremains are collected, placed and secured in a plastic bag so they can be seen, and then placed into another container, called a basic urn. We also have other more elaborate urns available that may be purchased by the client for their pets. Veterinarians also have catalogs and can order them for you. You may go online to our website or just call our firm to place an order. The urn with the pet’s cremains will be returned within a week.
The second phase is communal, meaning “mass” cremation. This is less costly than a private cremation and the cost is also based on the weight of the pet. Normally, an appointment is not necessary, as these cremations are done at our convenience. No cremains are returned to the owner of the pet in this case. We have a larger crematorium that is used only for a collection of pets. We scatter the mass cremains here on the farm.
We have maintained longtime employees. Joe, our gentle giant, has been with us for forty years. He operates, maintains and carefully watches over the cremations of our client’s pets. We cannot imagine ever opening the doors without his expertise.
We entrust the removal of our client’s pets to Keith. He has been with us for eight years. He does an amazing job of handling, tagging, checking paperwork and securing the return of these pets to their owners. Keith is a pet lover, having owned birds, rabbits and dogs since early childhood.
Troy, a retired Master Sergeant of the United States Air Force after twenty-four years of service as an Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE) Production Superintendent, has been with us for two years. He has become a valued employee, his handling of the families during the loss of a pet is an essential part of his job. Troy is an animal lover as well, along with his wife, Mary Ann and daughter, Katelyn. They recently rescued a feral kitten, and later adopted a second kitten to keep the first cat company throughout the day. They have both become beloved members of their family.
The pet cremation service has allowed us the opportunity to contribute a unique service to our community and other localities. Unique, because of our desire to keep our beloved pets with us, rather than part with their remains in other ways.
The business of operating a pet cremation service is much like the funeral business. The premise was established ninety-four years ago and solidly continues through three generations; only serve with dignity and respect.