Two families – Dolby and Nichols – have owned the only funeral businesses in Windham’s history. Now a third family, Segee, has been added to the legacy.
Eric and Kristin Segee took ownership of Dolby Funeral Chapel in late December, after working at the home under Dolby leadership for three years. They also purchased the Dolby & Dorr Funeral Chapel in Gorham.
The Segees will manage both locations, with former owner Tim Dolby staying on to ease the transition and provide continued support.
“(Dolby) provides a tremendous level of comfort to the folks of the community who are coming through the door,” Eric Segee said. “Kristin and I wanted him to continue to be here in that role.”
The funeral home had not made any public announcement regarding the change of ownership.
Dolby said this week he decided to sell the business because he’s “no spring chicken.” He said. “My idea is to do it while I’m healthy, (and) to help them through this transition.”
Dolby said his father, Bob Dolby, purchased the funeral business in 1946 from John C. Nichols.
Nichols was the grandson of Charles Nichols, who founded the first undertaking business in the area around the 1870s, according to Kay Soldier, a member of the Windham Historical Society.
Bob Dolby moved the funeral home to its present Windham location on River Road in 1951. He and his partner at the time opened Dolby & Dorr Funeral Chapel on State Street in Gorham in the mid-1990s.
Dolby started in the family business when he was 13, and has continued to work there for 53 years. He grew up in the house connected to the funeral home, where the Segees now live.
Living next door to the business “allows you to provide a greater level of service,” Segee said.
But the role also comes with some challenges.
“We’ve been here all day every day since we made the purchase, just like Tim was before us,” Seege said.
“Holidays, birthdays, they’re gone,” Dolby said. “You take care of business, and your family at home has to wait for you to return, because we make our community families come first.”
Segee, who grew up in East Machias, became interested in owning a funeral home as an altar boy.
“My mom was our parish secretary,” he said, “and she used to get me out of school to be an altar server for all of the funerals that our parish did.”
He got his start at Brookings-Smith Funeral home in Bangor, before attending mortuary school in Chicago.
When asked how she became interested in owning a funeral home, Kristin Segee said that “some people always want to be a teacher, or a nurse or something. I was just always interested in this.”
The couple met in mortuary school in Chicago, where they studied to become licensed funeral directors. They moved to Maine in 2006, and were hired by Tim Dolby in 2013.
Segee said he and his wife work well as business partners because her strengths in the business, including cosmetics, administrative tasks and organization, are different from his own.
“We both really complement each other,” he said.
Despite the demanding schedule, the work can be very rewarding, Segee said.
As a funeral director, he encounters “every personality type, every social class, every religion. I think nothing teaches you about life like the business of death.”
Kristin Segee and Dolby agreed one of the most rewarding parts of the work is aiding families through a difficult time, and helping them to memorialize their loved one.
Dolby said of the Windham community, “Even if it’s not biological, we’re all family. That’s the way it’s always been here.”
Dolby said he is still getting used to the sale.
“What bothers me is I feel I let the community down. That’s a transition I’m having a difficult time with,” he said.
Libby Sawyer owns Studio Flora, a flower shop in Windham that has worked with Dolby for years.
“I can’t say enough great things about them,” Sawyer said.
Hers is also a family business. Her parents owned a flower shop for 25 years, she said, and worked with Dolby and his father.
Business with Dolby has always been “quite enjoyable,” said Dwayne Harris, owner of Blossoms of Windham flower shop. He has worked with Dolby and his staff for seven years. “They’ve always been very helpful working with me and helping to serve my customers,” he said.
The Segees plan to make “a few technological upgrades” to the business, including a new audio-visual system and an update to the website.
They do not plan to change the name of the home. The Dolby name is recognizable in the community, Kristin Segee said, and “we want the town to know he is still involved and part of the business.”