Marshfield lost one of its most influential businessmen and a longtime community servant with the Dec. 19 passing of Gary Fraker. Fraker, who was the owner of Fraker Funeral Home, had been a mainstay in the Marshfield business community, always willing to support and sponsor events and organizations in the area.
“Supporting the community where he was raised was extremely important to him,” said Linda Lowe, longtime friend and employee of Fraker Funeral Home. “Gary knew our community and really cared for the people who lived here,” she added.
Fraker grew up on a dairy farm east of Marshfield, where he learned the value of hard work and dedication from his parents, Roy and Helen Fraker. He graduated in 1967 from Marshfield High School, where he was President of Student Council, selected as Outstanding Freshman and attended Boys’ State. Fraker attended Drury College in Springfield and received his prerequisites there before enrolling at the Kentucky School of Mortuary Science at Louisville in 1969. It was during this period that Fraker met his future bride, Jackie Cox, at the funeral service of his cousin, Ronnie Fraker. On Aug. 23, 1969, the couple were married at the Marshfield United Methodist Church and the next day they moved to Kentucky for Fraker to begin his formal schooling as a funeral director and licensed embalmer.
“Dad always knew that he wanted to be in the funeral business,” explained Dale Fraker. “He started working at Klinger Mortuary in Springfield while attending Drury and it wasn’t long after that he was attending mortuary school in Kentucky.” Later, after graduating from mortuary school, Fraker completed his internship at Shadel’s Colonial Chapel in Lebanon and later worked at Lakin Mortuary Service in Springfield.
The 1970’s was a busy decade for the Fraker family. In 1971, their son Dale would be born, in 1972 they opened their own mortuary near Spur Drive in Marshfield, called Fraker Memorial Funeral Home. Also in 1972, Fraker was elected Webster County Coroner, a position he would hold until 1985. In 1975, their youngest son, Garrett, was born, and this all took place while they were running a full-time funeral business, as well as Fraker Ambulance Service from 1972-1975.
In 1985, Fraker started working at Greenlawn North in Springfield, and worked as the manager there for two years, before leaving to work for his father on the family farm, following a farming accident. Throughout this time, he always kept his funeral license and looked forward to the opportunity to again open his family-operated funeral home in his hometown. That dream finally became a reality in 1991, when the Frakers – along with their son, Dale -- would open Fraker Funeral Home in a brand new building and location on Highway A.
“Dad was always proud of the service that we have provided families throughout the years,” Dale Fraker said. “It is important to us that we continue to keep that legacy of service alive, as we continue to operate the family business that was so important to him.”
“Service to others was always important to our dad,” explained Garrett Fraker. “He taught us that it was important to be humble and not to serve for your own gain and recognition. He was never comfortable speaking about himself or seeking personal recognition.” This lesson was at the heart of all that governed Fraker and his daily decisions; a lesson that was guided by his deeply rooted faith and his belief that we should care for all people and treat them equally and fairly. Fraker demonstrated this selfless commitment with his longtime service as a volunteer fireman and as a member of the Marshfield Fire Board.
“He always put others before himself,” said Kim Shockley Shelton, who worked for Fraker Funeral Home for 17 years. “People knew that if they had a need they could come and speak with Gary and that he would help them if he could. He had so many characteristics that we should all try to emulate.”
In 2004, Gary and Jackie Fraker were honored by the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce as the co-recipients of the Lifetime Achievement in Business along with John and Martha Foglesong from DD Hamilton Title Company. Also in 2004, Fraker was appointed by then Missouri Governor Matt Blunt to the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. He served several terms as the board president and would be reappointed to serve by Governors Jay Nixon and Eric Greitens. Fraker also served for many years on the board of directors of Metropolitan National Bank.
In the week that has followed Fraker’s passing, tributes have flooded social media and calls and cards have come in from across the country to the funeral home and his family. Tributes have included personal testimonies of his humble nature, generous spirit, and great sense of humor.
“Gary made everyone feel important and special,” said Jessica Hulen, who has worked for Fraker Funeral Home since 2017. “He has always been so good to our family, and he was one of the most fun people I have ever known.” Fraker and his late wife, Jackie were legendary throughout the community for their practical jokes and their fantastic sense of humor.
Even though Fraker kept a full plate of responsibilities throughout the community, he always made time for his family and friends. “Growing up, Dad always made sure that he made an appearance at all of our sporting events,” remembered Garrett Fraker. “He wanted to be remembered as a great dad and grandpa, and he was both.”
“Gary had a way of making everyone feel special and he adopted us all (the staff) into his family and he truly cared about us.” said Chris Robinson, who worked alongside Fraker for the past five years. Alana Clifton added, “When I was offered the job at Fraker Funeral Home, I knew that I wanted to work alongside Gary and wanted to learn from him. He was always so professional, and I admired how he treated everyone.“
Gary Fraker’s passing leaves a tremendous void in the Marshfield community. His life’s example reminds us all to be more kindhearted, serve without expectation or recognition and to treat others with equal respect and compassion. It has often been quoted that no man is a failure who has friends and Gary Fraker’s life has truly left an impression that can be felt throughout generations of Webster County residents; one that will never be forgotten among those who were so honored as to call him friend.
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