Nancy and Lowell Lohman Interview:
As you may know, Nancy and Lowell Lohman have been very supportive of the Halifax Humane Society. Over the years, they have graciously contributed to our mission, but most recently, they have become even more vested. Nancy is the Capital Campaign Chair and was named Humanitarian of the Year at the 2017 Fur Ball.
Lowell Lohman’s book, “The Lohman Way,” was recently published and recounted Lowell, Nancy, and their family’s life regarding their business savvy and road to financial success.
We were interested in finding out more about the Lohman’s and why they decided to become part of the Halifax Humane Society family.
HHS- Can you tell us how the two of you met?
LOWELL- It was 1990, and I was in Atlanta closing on a cemetery I was purchasing. After the closing, I visited a nearby restaurant and lounge called Chez Paul’s for a drink. I was by myself, but as I surveyed the room, I noticed this vivacious blonde across the way. She was with a small group of people, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. After about 30-minutes, Nancy approached me and asked if I would like to join their group. I accepted her offer, and we partied together for the rest of the evening, but Nancy’s boyfriend, Casey, was there, so I was respectful of their relationship. I just thought it was strangers in the night, and that was that.
The following evening, I returned to Chez Paul’s, and Casey was there as well. We began to talk, and I asked where Nancy was. He said she was attending a wedding. I thought it was odd that she would attend a wedding without her boyfriend, but he said he was meeting her later that evening. We continued to talk over a drink, and he mentioned that Nancy was the Ohio State Homecoming Queen. I was so impressed by this statement. Not only was Nancy gorgeous, but she was also brilliant and multi-faceted, for these were just a few of the requirements needed even to apply to be homecoming queen at Ohio State. Out of 82 girls nominated, Nancy won it. It’s a 3-step process of faculty, student body, and the committees that decide. I couldn’t stop thinking about Nancy, but I didn’t want to force myself into a love triangle, so again I respected her relationship with Casey and went my own way.
Three nights later, I was walking with a couple of fellows, and we were crossing Peachtree Blvd. in Atlanta. 2 girls were crossing from the opposite direction, and I’ll be if one of them wasn’t Nancy. I shouted out, “Nancy?” She stopped and turned and then smiled. I knew this was my chance to ask her out, and she agreed. We met for lunch the following day, and we have been together ever since.
NANCY- When Lowell and I met, I thought to myself, this great-looking guy, tan, loafers with no socks, and said his name was Lowell Lohman. I thought that sounds like an alias, and this guy’s not for real. During our conversation, I asked Lowell what he did for a career, and he tells me he owns cemeteries and funeral homes. Nobody would say that to impress a girl (laughs), so I guessed he was telling me the truth. A few weeks later, I went with Lowell to the cemetery he had purchased. I saw his cemetery from a different perspective and realized how meaningful and necessary cemeteries are when losing a loved one. Years later, Lowell asked me to join him in the profession. Anyway, that’s how we met.
HHS- What do you contribute to your success?
LOWELL- After graduating from Florida State, I went to work for a public company that built large sewage plants. I was the sales manager, and the job was okay. Later down the road, there was a distributorship opening on the east coast of Florida, so I applied to purchase the distributorship and went into business for the first time. I held onto the distributorship for about 40-months. During this same period, I began to invest in real estate. The economy tanked, so I started to look for other less risky investments. My step-dad had owned a cemetery in the Cocoa Beach area but had sold it off several years earlier. Over the holidays, my brother and I sat down with our step-dad Irv to discuss the cemetery business. After hours of discussion, he recommended that we look to see if there were any cemeteries for sale, and he would go in on the investment with us.
We found a cemetery for sale in Ormond Beach, which is now Volusia Memorial. We purchased the cemetery, and my brother Victor and I ran the operation. Irv retired. We tripled the sales of the cemetery in the first year. After just a few years, we were the largest private owners of cemeteries and funeral homes in Florida. We ended up owning 12 cemeteries and funeral homes. The country’s 3rd largest funeral company came calling and made us a ridiculous offer to sell our holdings, so we took it. Victor stayed on with the new company, but I didn’t want to work for someone else, so I began to purchase cemeteries and funeral homes on my own.
I bought 17 by myself, but I missed the family business. I met Nancy during this time, and I moved to Atlanta to be with her. I had four cemeteries in the Atlanta area, but I didn’t need to there due to having well-trained staff in place. I moved there for Nancy.
NANCY- I saw that something was missing from Lowell’s life, so I requested a transfer to central Florida so Lowell could be closer to his family. My employer at the time, Eastman Kodak, made the transfer happen to keep me on board.
LOWELL- Once we moved to Ormond Beach in 1997, Nancy commuted to her offices in Orlando most every day. I saw that this was taking a toll on Nancy, so I made her an offer. If she would go back to school for one-year and secure her funeral director’s license, I would build her the most beautiful funeral home right here in Ormond Beach, but she would have to run it.
NANCY- Also, at this same time, Lowell had an offer to sell the cemeteries in Atlanta but was also still operating funeral homes in Jacksonville, long distance. Shortly after moving to Ormond, we received an offer to sell Jacksonville as well. We accepted both the offers for Atlanta and Jacksonville.
I suggested to Lowell to take some time off, but as he mentioned, he had other plans that included me becoming a funeral director. My first response to his idea was, “I can’t be a funeral director. I wear fuchsia!” Simply meaning, I wear bright colors, and I am very exuberant, so how well would I fit into a funeral environment. I realized I could make a difference during the saddest time of someone’s life, which gave me the confidence to accept Lowell’s proposal.
Lowell asked his brother and son to join the family business, and here we were, a family again. Lowell gave his son Ty 20%, his brother Victor 20%, and gave me 20%. Combined, Lowell and I owned 60% of the business. An outside consultant who met with Lowell once told him that his business was so successful because he shared the business with his family instead of expecting them to work for only a salary. All family members had a vested interest in making the business as successful as possible, and thus it was very successful.
HHS- Why did you get involved with the Halifax Humane Society?
LOWELL- Nancy is only 1 of 2 females who have been president of the National Funeral Cemetery Association. She is so driven, and once she recognizes a desire and a goal, she gives it 110%. When we sold the last of our funeral homes and cemeteries, Nancy needed something to sink her teeth into, and the Halifax Humane Society was one of those organizations.
NANCY- Let me back the bus up to elaborate. When Lowell and I met back in Atlanta, Lowell gave me a little kitten. We named him Cheatham. Years later, when we moved to Ormond, we wanted to get another cat to replace Cheatham, who had recently passed on. So, we came here to HHS to adopt a cat. The staff was so nice and helpful. We adopted a very large Maine Coon cat and named him Stretch because he would stretch out so long that he looked like a Panther! Years later, Stretch developed kidney problems, and we had to take him to the vet twice a week for treatments. We did this for three years.
As his time was coming to an end, we didn’t want him cremated; we wanted him to be buried. We didn’t want to break the law and bury him in our yard, so we started a pet cemetery and crematorium. This led to a business relationship with HHS who had needed to cremate or bury animals brought to them for end of life services. The pet cemetery grew very quickly. We began to have people coming out of the woodwork asking us to help their pet a final resting place. We were holding funerals, memorials, and doing burials in addition to cremations. I met with so many people who lost their pets. Many cried more for their dog or cat than I have ever seen people cry at a funeral. This business brought us closer to HHS as time went on.
We had heard about Fur Ball and wanted to attend. About four years ago, on Thanksgiving Day, the Halifax Humane Society was broken into, and the criminals stole the TV. Lowell and I were so heartbroken that someone would break into a non-profit organization on Thanksgiving Day and steal a television. When we saw how much good was happening here, and how much our animals had changed our lives, it was just heartbreaking. Thanksgiving evening Lowell and I decided to go to Best Buy and purchase a TV for HHS to replace the stolen one. Unfortunately, we had no idea how many people go to Best Buy on Thanksgiving eve. The line was around the store twice. We decided to return the next day to purchase the TV. We had it delivered to HHS, and this was the beginning of our giving for the animals. Miguel thanked us for our donation, and we have been part of HHS ever since.
LOWELL- Then Fur Ball was just two weeks away, and we decided to attend. We quickly realized that very few people knew about the good at HHS and how the facility wasn’t very pretty and uninviting from the exterior. I saw Miguel and invited him to come over to our table. He leaned over, and I asked, “So, when are you going to have a Capital Campaign and renovate that building?” I told Miguel that Nancy and I would be there to get involved when he put a plan together.
NANCY- For the sake of the animals and to increase adoptions, a renovation was much needed. I always say, “People eat with their eyes.” If the bakery has beautiful cakes in the window, then you go inside. It wasn’t long after Lowell and Miguel spoke that I received a phone call from Miguel asking to meet with him and a consultant he had engaged. I met with them, and Miguel asked if I would be the Capital Campaign Chair. I thought about how many people I had talked to about just how vital their pets were to them. I realized how important the mission of HHS indeed was. The Capital Campaign Chair would require our emotional and financial support so that I couldn’t say yes right away. I had to ask Lowell if this was something he would like to do. Of course, Lowell was behind the initiative 100%.
Being the Chair would be an excellent opportunity to learn how to create a Capital Campaign. How to develop and implement it the right way. Every decision, every thought was very methodical from the very start of the campaign. I was able to learn quite a bit from Miguel and the consultant about the decision-making process.
LOWELL- We feel that people who are not pet people miss one of the greatest joys of life. They have no idea how much love a pet can bring to your heart.
NANCY- I always say, “Pets don’t make your whole life, but they sure make your life whole.”
HHS- So, what’s next?
NANCY- I have learned a great deal from Miguel. He has shown me that there is a lot of science, management, and methodology to the decision-making process. Also, a lot of consciousness goes into the decisions he makes. As well, I enjoy being part of the team. I really enjoy the staff and respect their dedication. I am busier now in retirement than I was when I was working. I am always very busy.
Lowell and Victor are very involved in the apartment complex business, which is also growing.
HHS- Any closing remarks?
LOWELL- If you care for animals, you need to support the Halifax Humane Society’s mission.
NANCY- My dedication is committed to HHS, and I hope people will embrace the organization’s growth and dreams, which benefits our community’s animals. Thank you.