By: Carol Beck-Round | Category: Professional Services | Issue: January 2014
Ryan Payne is the new owner of MMS-Payne Funeral Home. Payne took over the reins after purchasing Musgrove-Merriott-Smith in October, 2013.
When Ryan Payne began a part-time job at 19, he didn’t know it would one day lead to a career in the funeral home business. Payne, born and raised in Rogers County, was a college student when he began working at the Musgrove-Merriott-Smith funeral home. On October 1, 2013, he officially became the owner and operator of the oldest funeral home in Rogers County after long-time owner Jim Smith and his wife/business partner, Cindy Smith, retired.
Previously enrolled at Northeastern State University, Payne transferred to Will Rogers Junior College – now RSU – when he was hired by the funeral home in 1994 to do lawn care and maintenance, clean cars and sometimes help with visitations. “I was doing work that no one else had time to do,” he says.
Although Payne enjoyed the job, he says, “Basically, it was a way to help pay my way through college.” A biology major, Payne soon discovered he loved helping people and assisting with funeral services. “When I started helping out with the services, I found I enjoyed it. It didn’t take too long for me to realize I wanted this to be my full-time career.” Prior to this realization, Payne was considering a career with the Corp of Engineers – “At least, I had that in the back of my mind,” he says. “I’ve always loved science, especially wildlife biology.”
After receiving his associate’s degree in biology from WRJC, Payne enrolled at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he earned his degree in mortuary science in 1997.
Between his days at WRJC and UCO, Payne spent a year interning at Musgrove. “It was a state requirement for me to get my funeral license, so it was just kind of understood that I’d return full-time to the funeral home after college. After UCO, I went to work there full-time, beginning my career in this business.”
Payne attributes his success to mentors Paul Merriott and Jim Smith. “They shaped my career,” he says. “Paul offered good advice and Jim always let me ‘find my way.’”
According to Payne, “Jim would let me try new things and if they worked out fine, go ahead and keep doing them. If they didn’t work out, Jim told me to learn from it and not do it again, but he never made me feel inadequate. He gave me a lot of free rein and when it came time for me to take over, I was prepared.”
About six years ago, Payne bought into the Musgrove-Merriott-Smith business. At that time, owners Jim and Cindy Smith announced they would be retiring. Officially, the Smiths retired on September 30, 2013. “That date is significant,” says Payne, “because it marked 43 years to the day they started in the funeral business.”
Payne emphasizes the comfortable transition from funeral director to owner/director, citing his experience and long-time staff members who have kept things running smoothly. “We are fortunate to have long-time experienced staff members,” he says. “All of our employees are from this area and have been encouraging and supportive of my transition to director and funeral home owner, now known as MMS-Payne Funeral Home & Cremation Service.”
Long-time employees at the Claremore funeral home include Denise Adamson, funeral director; Charlie Bray, assistant funeral director and Frank Friedemann, director of family services. Allen McElwain, an experienced funeral director, recently joined the staff. Susan Bickford, office manager at the Chelsea funeral home, and June Medlock, the Inola office manager, are also long-time employees.
“We plan to continue providing the exceptional service that the people of Rogers County have come to expect from this funeral home,” Payne adds. “We have the most experienced licensed funeral staff in this county.”
Payne and his wife Brandi live in Claremore with their three daughters, ages six, three and five months.
For more information, contact
After 30 years in public school education, Carol Round retired and moved from Grand Lake to Claremore, Oklahoma in 2005, where she writes a weekly faith-based column which runs in 14 Oklahoma newspapers as well as several national and international publications. Three volumes of her columns have been compiled into collections: A Matter of Faith, Faith Matters and by FAITH alone. She has also written Journaling with Jesus: How to Draw Closer to God and a companion workbook, The 40-Day Challenge. This past year she has written three children’s books, a series called Nana’s 3 Jars, to teach children about the value of giving, saving and spending money. All of Carol’s books are available through Amazon. In addition to writing her weekly column, authoring books and speaking to women’s groups, she writes for Value News. She also blogs regularly at www.carolaround.com. When she is not writing or speaking, she loves spending time with her three grandchildren, working in her flowerbeds, shooting photos, volunteering at her church or going on mission trips overseas, and hiking. She is also an avid reader and loves working crosswords and trying to solve Sudoku puzzles.
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