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October 1, 1996

The Newton name has been around this town about as long as there's been a Perry. Jack Newton was the last linear descendant of that pioneer family still residing here, so his passing on Sunday in the Stillwater Medical Center brings to an end a chapter in our history.

The Newtons were pioneers in the furniture business, and in the old days that meant they also were undertakers. For a time, George Newton, Jack's grandfather, had a store at 629 Delaware on the north side of the square with Fred L. Treeman as his partner. The business was known as Treeman & Newton. Mr. Treeman was a brother of Ralph W. Treeman and an uncle of John Treeman and Elizabeth Willems. George later became a partner with Charlie Christoph in a furniture store/undertaking parlor, Christoph & Newton, at 301 Seventh street, on the west side of the square.

Christoph & Newton Furniture and Undertaking endured for quite a few years, later evolving into the Newton Furniture Store and the Newton Funeral Home. Until the 1930s, Perry did not have a real "funeral home." Services were held in homes, churches, or other buildings. Embalming was done at the undertaking parlor. George and Ted Newton built an impressive-looking two-story funeral home on north Seventh street about 60 years ago, and it was operated by them as a separate business from the furniture store. It is now the Brown Funeral Home, operated by Lloyd and Dolly Brown. The furniture store was one of Perry's finest and most reliable firms.

Ted Newton joined his father, George, in the family business as a young man and later became proprietor when George retired. Ted's older son, Jack, also followed his father into the firm. A younger son, Bill, is now a prominent Tulsa attorney. A few years after World War II, during which he served in the Navy in the Pacific, Jack took over the family business and ran it with his wife, Velva.

While Ted was still active, the Newtons bought a funeral home in Billings about 40 years ago, and Jack and Velva moved up there to operate that business while Ted and his wife, Libby, concentrated on the Perry operation. The folks at Billings took an instant liking to Jack and Velva, and the young couple quickly became integral parts of that community. They later disposed of the Billings home and returned to Perry. Jack and Velva became sole owners after Ted's health forced him into retirement.

For most of that time, ambulance service in this city was furnished by our two funeral homes, Davis & Son, operated by Fred A. Davis and his son, Farris, and the Newton Funeral Home. It was a highly competitive, not to mention dangerous, business, and the two firms were happy when the city took over ambulance service. While the Newtons and the Davis' were still in it, their people became the equivalent of today's emergency responders and their skills were much appreciated by our hospital's emergency room when accident victims were rushed in.

In due time the Davis business was sold to Bill Parker, and he eventually merged it with the Newton Funeral Home when Jack and Velva stepped out of the firm. When Bill retired, Lloyd and Dolly became owner-operators of the city's only funeral home. Jack assisted Lloyd through the years, but he also kept the Newton name active among Perry volunteer services as much as his health permitted. For some time now he has been the American Legion service officer. One of his functions has been to present the U.S. flag to veterans' families at graveside services.

Jack and Velva were high school sweethearts in the 1940s, and after her untimely death in 1993 Jack became restless to join her. His health was precarious even before he lost Velva, and it seemed to deteriorate rapidly. This last episode was more than his frail condition could tolerate, so now he has achieved his wish, which he stated at Velva's funeral: "Walk slowly down the passageway, for soon I'll follow you." So long, Jack. It's been good to know you.