Anyone who lives, shops or works, in downtown Port Perry, certainly knows Wagg Funeral home and its owner, Myles O’Riordan. Myles was elected President of the Ontario Funeral Services Association in 2010, a position which put him at the head of an organization, made up of 235 funeral homes as members.
The funeral home business is not something Myles had intended to be involved with. In fact, in his high school years Myles had his heart set on electronic technology. Myles, whose father worked for Christie’s bread company, was born in Toronto, but grew up in Aurora. During his high school years he had several part time jobs, working at dry cleaners, gas stations, Canadian Tire and the Beer store.
Myles’ childhood had its hurdles. When he was 10 years old his brother Rory passed away and at 15 his father died, leaving Myles, his two sisters and his mother all alone. After his first year of Electronics, an opening came up in the Funeral Services Education at Humber College, and Myles thought it might be interesting.
He persevered with it, and found the topic fascinating. His marks were very good and he was asked to intern at Marshall Funeral Home in Richmond Hill. After the apprenticeship was completed, Myles stayed on with Marshall for another six years, but wanted to explore life in the big city. He worked for two years in Toronto.
An opportunity arose in Port Perry when Harold Wagg wanted to retire. Myles jumped at the chance, and with financial help from his mother, he purchased the business. “I thought about changing the name,” he explained. “But no one knew O’Riordan. In fact many people can’t even pronounce it,” he chuckled.
In 2000 Myles went on a blind date with Susan Timms, a school teacher. The following year the couple were wed. “It was a real whirlwind romance,” Myles said. “We met in December, became engaged in February and were married in August”. A year and a half later, the couple was blessed with a son, who was named after Myles’ deceased brother.
The name of the funeral home has not changed since Myles bought it. In fact, when he expanded the business in 1999, and added a chapel, it was named after former owners McDermott-Panabaker. The building has been a funeral home since 1846.
Myles O’Riordan is very involved in Port Perry. Not only does he, Susan and Rory live in town, he was past president of the Rotary Club, is a member of the Oddfellows and the Knights of Columbus. Every Sunday morning he plays hockey with ‘a bunch of the guys’. “I love the exercise and the Comradery,” Myles explained. “We have been playing for more than a dozen years, and it’s great.”
Three years ago, Myles and Susan purchased Thorne Funeral Home in Cannington. They are now able to service Cannington, Sunderland and Port Perry.
Travelling is big on their list, and in the past 12 months, Myles has visited Ireland four times, in search of his roots. “My dad’s brother is 91 and has fantastic stories to tell. I sit and listen for hours,” Myles explains.
Myles O’Riordan is one of those rare individuals who constantly strive to be the best he can be, to everyone he meets. His attitude shows in the success of his business. Owning and operating a funeral home may seem different from most businesses, but Myles and Susan have made service to the community a priority in their lives.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.