Back to the basics

tporter@lsjournal.comFebruary 28, 2014 

Buck Langsford’s father started the business back in 1934 so he has first-hand knowledge of the origins and how it has sustained its longevity in the Lee’s Summit community.

The patriarch, M.B. Langsford, founded Langsford Funeral Home 80 years ago this year and after eight decades of providing funeral services to grieving families, the business now includes four generations involved in the day-to-day operations.

Buck Langsford started working in the family business at an early age and eventually bought half of the company from his father before assuming majority ownership. Buck’s daughter, Sandy, and her husband Brad Cox bought the business from Buck and his wife Barbara in 1999.

Today Brad and Sandy Langsford-Cox count among its employees Buck and Langsford-Cox’s eldest son Jeremy Wisner.

“She used to work for me,” Buck Langford said of Sandy, “but that’s another story.”

“Do you know how hard it is to work for your dad for 20, 30 years?” Langsford-Cox said with a laugh. “It takes a lot of patience.”

Buck came out of retirement a few years ago after Barbara passed away. His stories recounting the history of not only Langsford Funeral Home, but the city of Lee’s Summit itself are boundless.

“My dad quit high school and started plowing farmland for 50 cents an acre,” Buck Langsford said. “Then he moved to town and started Lee’s Summit’s first flower shop. He kind of got his nose wet in the funeral business by delivering flowers to the funeral homes. His first funeral was in February of 1934. He had never had a funeral, but he was hungry and thought he could make some money.”

Some of Buck’s fondest memories stem for those early years at Langsford Funeral Home.

“In the old days there was no municipal ambulance service,” Buck said. “No town owned an ambulance in America; they were all owned by funeral directors because in the old days the funeral director was the only guy that had a wagon or a car that would handle a person lying down.

“We operated a Cadillac ambulance – we were in the ambulance business for about 40 years plus the funeral home, so we were on call 24 hours a day. With no hospital in Lee’s Summit at that time, everyone went to Saint Luke’s Hospital on the Plaza (in Kansas City). My father was noted for a good ambulance service. He loved ambulance service because he could drive fast legally and he would love to drive and blow that siren.”

Langsford-Cox said she shied away from the family business as a youth, but over time became more involved and hands-on. She was all in with the family business even before she and Brad purchased the funeral home.

“It was too emotional growing up,” she said. “I really did not have an desire to work for the funeral home. My dad needed help in 1995 and I had been working for my father for years with Langsford Development. I was his property manager. He asked me if I would help him out and I did. Here I am.”

Cox, who had a career in film and television production, was new to the business back in 1999. He said having a resource such as Buck Langsford at his side made for an easier transition.

“When Sandy and I bought this in ‘99, I was 40-years-old coming into this,” Cox said. “There is a different perspective there and that dynamic that is the family dynamic and the heritage dynamic is one thing versus you get a hold of something and you make changes. You have to respect that family dynamic and heritage. Buck’s been really gracious to allow us to do whatever we thought was best. He was there for any guidance. The thing that has made Langsford Funeral Home what it is was within a handshake and a reach. All you had to do was ask. We’re really fortunate that Buck has been available to us.”

All agreed the mainstay of the funeral home’s success through the decades has been compassionate and quality service.

“You’re doing something extremely emotional for people,” Cox said. “I have always said one of the greatest shocks to me about this business or the biggest realizations was how incredibly intimate this business is. The intimacy that you have to have when you do this business, people don’t really realize that. The care and little things that you do make that work.

“At some point in this deal, you’ve got to get someone through the worst days of their life. They’re going know about 10 seconds into this if your really care of if you don’t. And that’s huge in this business. I think that’s why at 80 years, there’s probably another 80 ahead of it as long as we keep that part of it.”

“Family businesses are not easy to keep going,” added Buck Langsford. “They have a lot of bumps on the road.”

Despite the bumps of family business, Langsford Funeral Home remains a family-owned business firmly planted in Lee’s Summit.

“The first mayor of Lee’s Summit was Sandy’s great, great, great-grandfather. He used to preach every Saturday night on top of a building at Third and Main (Streets). He started the Christian Church. So we have a lot of roots here. Our roots run deep in Lee’s Summit.”

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