Funeral director receives state honors

SPECIAL RECOGNITION — Eric Fithyan, owner of Chambers & James Funeral, Pet and Cremation Services, has received the Charles E. Dodd Award, which is given annually to an outstanding funeral director by the West Virginia Funeral Directors and Crematory Operators Association, as well as being nominated for the West Virginia Governor’s Service Award. -- Warren Scott

Eric Fithyan, owner of Chambers & James Funeral, Pet and Cremation Services in Wellsburg and Follansbee, has received the Charles E. Dodd Award, which is given annually to an outstanding funeral director by the West Virginia Funeral Directors and Crematory Operators Association.

He also was nominated for the West Virginia Governor’s Service Award.

Dodd was a Webster County funeral director known for innovative practices and a past district governor for the group who also was active in the Lions, Shriners and other civic groups. Later in life he moved to Wheeling, where he died, at the age of 96, in 2007.

Fithyan also has been active in the funeral directors association, serving as Northern District president and representing the organization when meeting with state legislators about issues affecting their profession.

He noted the group represents more than 100 funeral homes, including 200 funeral directors and their employees, throughout the state.

Fithyan said it meant a lot to be recognized by his peers “who know what you do on a daily basis.”

But he added he was equally honored to be nominated for the West Virginia Governor’s Service Award and receive a thank-you for his community service from Gov. Jim Justice.

Fithyan said involvement in community service is a criterion for both awards.

He said the nomination for the governor’s award came from Gloria Jarrell, with whom he serves on the Weirton Chamber of Commerce’s special projects committee. Fithyan is chairman of the group, which has been involved in such events as the Weirton Christmas parade, the chamber’s Ladies Day program and the home and garden show held in collaboration with the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.

As a member of the Wellsburg and Follansbee chambers of commerce, Fithyan coordinates the Wellsburg Christmas parade and will chair a Nov. 21 blood drive at the Follansbee Community House in collaboration with the American Red Cross.

Fithyan also has supported and honored those who have served in the military, past and present. Such endeavors have included Operation Valentine, through which Chambers and James Funeral Homes have collected 11,821 valentines made by students and others for service members abroad and veterans in nursing homes since 2013.

“This year we got a lot of thank-yous back from the Huntington VA Medical Center, Camp Dawson and other places,” he said.

The funeral homes also participate in Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit program that supplies wreaths for the graves of veterans buried at more than 1,000 national and state veteran cemeteries. The effort is supported in part by the purchase of wreaths from family members of local veterans for their graves through funeral homes such as Chambers and James.

The funeral homes will be taking orders for the wreaths, which are $15 each, through Nov. 26.

Fithyan said he again will team with local veterans groups to hold a wreath laying service on Dec. 15 at the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park at Brooke Hills Park.

He added as the holiday season approaches, the funeral homes will be accepting donations of new or gently used sweaters for veterans in nursing homes. It’s the seventh year for the annual collection,which has netted 200 to 300 sweaters each year.

Related projects have included the shipment of hundreds of used cell phones and donation of airtime to service members abroad and proper disposal of hundreds of damaged U.S. flags at a Flag Day ceremony involving the Tri-State Young Marines and Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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