The Park Presbyterian Church will once again celebrate life in Italy.

The Italy City Council approved a zoning change to 2.335 acres of land on 800 S. Ward to allow Boze-Mitchell McKibbin to repurpose the church as a funeral home. The funeral home hopes to occupy the new building — roughly 3,800 square feet — later this year.

Chelsea McKibbin-Langford, Boze-Mitchell McKibbin chief operations officer, said the old building for their Italy chapel did not have a lot of parking or room to grow. When the Presbyterian Church dissolved last year, McKibbin-Langford looked to see if there was any possibility of purchasing the property.

One year later, they bought the building, rezoned the property and sold their old building to Central Baptist Church.

“We’ll be re-doing all of the floorings,” McKibbin-Langford said. “The stage at the front of the chapel, we’re pulling out and we’ll be doing a smaller stage and podium to allow extra seating.”

Other renovations include combining four Sunday school rooms and turning those into two — a separate visitation and conference room. McKibbin-Langford said she’s excited about the layout, stating the church can handle the growth that Ellis County is experiencing.

“It has a really good area for families to have receptions in there afterward,” she said. “So often, we have families ask us after services where can we have a reception or a luncheon. The layout is really going to be able to allow us to help families facilitate that.”

Born and raised in the industry, McKibbin-Langford said she used to wonder why some people were so interested in the funeral business. Her father, Joe, told her it was because he wanted to help people in mourning.

“There are a lot of service jobs you can do,” she said. “Doctors, firefighters, stuff like that. But when someone loses somebody, that’s when they’re at their lowest. If he could help them then, that’s what he wanted to do.”

Even then, however, McKibbin-Langford said she didn’t fully understand that perspective. Not until her father passed away in 2014.

“All of a sudden, I was on the other side of the table,” she remembered. “I sat my head down on the table, and I couldn’t think. I couldn’t make any decisions. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I do this every day.”

McKibbin-Langford said she felt locked up from all of the emotions she was experiencing. She didn’t want to be at the funeral, she didn’t want to talk to people, she didn’t want to see her father’s casket. She didn’t want to do anything.

That’s when she understood how important her family’s profession was.

“It was a realization for me,” she recalled. “A funeral is hard, but it is part of the grieving process. Being able to help families through that so that a year later, they can look back and start learning to feel normal.”

McKibbin-Langford said its rewarding to help someone find themselves again after losing someone.

“Nothing’s going to be the same again, and they’re not going to magically be okay,” she explained. “But you can help them get on the right path for that grief.”


David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX