About Us

Our History

Claire_Hedley Riffe

Riffe's Funeral Service was established in January, 1932 by the late Hedley Lewis Riffe and Claire Tipton Riffe. Originally, Hedley and Claire were in  partnership with Clarence Ballard of Lindside, West Virginia. Riffe & Ballard
maintained "undertaker parlors" at Narrows and Lindside. Ballard  operated the Lindside firm until his death in 1939. After his death, his wife,  Madge, continued to run the business at Lindside until 1944. 

The funeral parlor in Narrows was first located at the corner of Hare and Main Streets until 1941, when Hedley and Claire purchased the Walt Pence property at the corner of Main and Northview Streets, the present location of the funeral home.

During the early years, most families had homemade coffins stored in barns and outbuildings on their farms. When a death occurred, a family member would send for the undertaker. He would then prepare the remains in the home, dress them, then lay them out in the living room of the home. Usually the funeral was held in the residence, and the remains placed in a wagon drawn by two horses to be taken to the cemetery for final burial. The first gas-powered funeral car, a Henny-Packard, arrived in 1940.

During the early years, telephones in rural Giles County were scarce. Because of this, a light was always left burning on the front porch of the funeral home at night so that when somebody came to tell of the death of a
loved one he or she could simply ring the door bell.

RFS-Entrance1950Corner

Main entrance to the funeral home, circa 1950

While growing up in the funeral home, Jim's bedroom was located near the upstairs door, and it was his job to turn the lights on downstairs and unlock the door for people while his father would dress at night. Usually some funeral arrangements were made on that first visit, but as Jim recalled in a 1987 interview with the Virginian Leader newspaper, "When there was a death, my father would be gone for several days to handle a funeral because the roads were usually dirt." Coming back would sometimes take quite a long time, so he would stay with a family until the funeral was over.

Embalming was usually done in the home. At the time, most funeral homes hired a "trade embalmer" (one embalmer working for several firms) to prepare the remains.

RFS-Narrows1954Parade

During the 1954 Narrows 50th Anniversary Celebration, Riffe's Funeral Home showcased a horse-drawn hearse from 1904 and a newly-purchased Cadillac hearse from 1954.  Burman Blankenship and Corky Martin are driving the horse-drawn hearse, while Hedley Riffe drives the 1954 Cadillac.

 RFS-Hedley1954Hearse

Hedley Riffe died unexpectedly in February of 1959. After graduating from Narrows High School in 1957, Jim graduated in the fall of 1960 from Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, which to this day is considered one of the nation's premier mortuary schools. 

RFH Ambulance Service

Like most funeral homes around the country at that time, Riffe's also operated an ambulance service until 1969 when it, along with all Giles County funeral homes, discontinued the service due to new federal and state laws.

RFS-Jim and Allie 1970

In 1970, Jim and Allie Riffe boarded a Norfolk & Western train to Cincinnati to pick up this new 1970 Cadillac hearse from the Hess & Eisenhardt Company.

 Chapel

The funeral home was first remodeled in 1960, followed in 1966 by the construction of a self-standing chapel building.  Then a major expansion took place in 1977 when a new wing was built which nearly doubled the size of the old funeral home, connecting our chapel with the existing house on the corner of Main and  Northview Streets.

Following the death of Claire Riffe in January of 1982, the firm changed its name to Riffe's Funeral Service, Inc.

In the Fall of 1999, Riffe's Funeral Service became the first funeral home in Virginia, west of Richmond, to install "Family Advisor," a computerized virtual selection room of caskets, vaults, urns, and urn vaults.   This new system offered families a greater variety of merchandise to fit individual styles and budgets, without the emotional stress of choosing caskets in a traditional selection room.

In June 2002, Riffe's became the first Giles County funeral home to launch a full-service web site, www.riffes.com, containing a page for obituaries and online condolences, helpful information about preplanning and prefunding, and community information. Because of these innovative approaches, Riffe's was named one of Aurora Casket Company's "Top 200 E-Business Funeral Homes" in 2003. 

Then, in August 2011, a new website, riffefuneralservice.com, was launched, replacing the old site with enhanced features such as an enhanced obituary section allowing for Facebook and Twitter linking, easier access to obituaries from the home page, and an online version of our "Family Advisor" selection system.

James2011

In December 2004, James Riffe, Jr. received his Virginia Funeral Service license, graduating from Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. In May 2005, he became licensed in West Virginia.

Early in the hours of Saturday, April 19th, 2008, Jim Sr., passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at his home. Upon his passing, James Jr. was named General Manager of the firm. 

In March 2012, James earned the designation of CFSP (Certified Funeral Service Practitioner) from the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice.

Presently, Riffe Funeral Service is a member of the National Funeral Directors Association, the Association of Independent Funeral Homes of Virginia, the Virginia Funeral Directors Association, and the Blue Ridge Funeral Directors Association.