At the January 2020 meeting of the Board of Trustees, Arnold Funeral Home became an institutional member of the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum’s Board, with John Arnold, Jr. serving as its first representative. The 22 member Board has six institutional seats reserved for businesses with a long history in Canton.
Arnold Funeral Home, now in its fifth generation of family-ownership, handled the local arrangements for President William McKinley in Canton on September 18, 1901. When Director of Education Christopher Kenney was researching his book The McKinley Monument: A Tribute to a Fallen President, he went to Arnold’s and they got out “Book One” to show him the page for McKinley’s “Record of Funeral.” They also shared a second page, dated October 11, 1907, which showed what was done when the President, his wife Ida, and their two young daughters were removed from West Lawn Cemetery and placed in the recently completed Monument.
When Chris passed away in 2019, Executive Director Kim Kenney chose Arnold Funeral Home specifically because of the McKinley connection. “In addition to researching McKinley for two books, Chris portrayed President McKinley as a first person interpreter, so I knew Arnold was the right choice,” she said. “The great great grandson of the man who handled McKinley’s arrangements met with me, which was very special. Everything was perfect, and they made a very difficult time in my life so much easier for me.”
The Arnold family views the new board seat as a tremendous honor. “It’s a privilege to carry out the legacy of our founder,” said John Arnold, Jr. “We have served several families in the Canton area for four or five generations, which is remarkable for a local business.”
“We are always looking to be impactful in the community in a variety of ways,” said John Arnold, Sr., “and since this is tied to our heritage, it means so much more to us than it would to many others. We’re proud to be able to carry on the traditions that were started in the 1800s. We were chosen to handle the President’s arrangements simply because he and my great grandfather were friends.” J.L. Arnold and McKinley were founding members of the Congress Lake Club.
J.L. Arnold emigrated from Bavaria in 1882 at the age of 17, after serving as an apprentice in furniture building. The early funeral industry evolved from furniture making, because in addition to building household furniture, they often built wooden coffins. J.L. Arnold first settled in Cincinnati and later came to Canton in 1888, where he purchased the undertaking and furniture establishment owned by the Shearer Brothers. In 1899 he formed a partnership with H.D. McCrea, and eventually sold out the furniture side of his business to focus exclusively on funerals.
J.L. Arnold was one of the organizers of the Citizen’s Building & Loan Company, which is part of Huntington Bank today. He served as both president and secretary on the Ohio State Board of Embalming Examiners, receiving appointments from three governors. He was a member of the Canton Board of Health and one of the original organizers of the Canton Chamber of Commerce. He was a 32nd degree mason and his affiliations included McKinley Lodge #431 F&AM, Knights Templar, Scottish Rite, Nazir Grotto, Al Koran Shrine, and the Masonic Veterans Association. Other memberships included National Funeral Directors Association, Ohio Funeral Directors Association and First United Church of Christ. He held a life membership in Canton Lodge of Elks.