CONCORD, CA (Sept. 16, 2021) — John J. Ouimet, long-time Concord businessman who co-founded and operated a local funeral business, died in his home at 92 years surrounded by family on Sept. 1. John Ouimet and his wife Sharon opened Lough-Ouimet Funeral Chapel with partners Roy and Ardell Lough in 1958 at the downtown corner of Grant Street and Concord Boulevard when Concord’s population was about 35,000.
The Loughs left the business in 1971 and John Ouimet’s brother Don and wife Bea joined. They changed the name to Ouimet Bros. Concord Funeral Chapel. When redevelopment of the downtown claimed their block, the partners moved the business to its current location on Clayton Road. Now in its 63rd year, the funeral chapel is one of the longest operating businesses in Concord.
The only funeral services existing when the funeral chapel first opened were either Catholic or Protestant. With the city’s population now over 125,000, the business has evolved over the years. They now offer services in every religion as well as non-religious services. Cremation is also more popular now and technology has influenced how they work.
“We used to have a night man’s room where someone had to stay on-site 24/7 because you could be needed any time of the day or night to transfer people into our care.” explained John in an interview for the chapel’s 60th anniversary. “First call-forwarding helped. Now, with cell phones, they can answer calls anywhere.
John Ouimet was a perfectionist in his profession, bringing comfort to so many families who were grieving the loss of a loved one. He helped many young embalmers and funeral directors to perfect their skills.
The Ouimets sold the business to Carriage Services in 1997, but the two couples have remained involved on a part-time basis.
John Ouimet grew up in Quebec, Canada and New York. In 1950 he joined the Air Force and served as a junior radio operator during the Korean Conflict. After spending time in Florida and Greenland, he was stationed near Cambria to monitor radio signals along California’s coast. It was there that he met a high school girl named Sharon from nearby Templeton.
He used the GI Bill to attend mortuary college in San Francisco while Sharon attended Heald Business College. After they wed in 1956, his employer fired Ouimet, explaining that they had no need for a married man.
Growing a business
The couple traveled around the Bay Area, stopping in every town that had a mortuary to look for work. It was in San Jose where they got their first break, and he finished his apprenticeship at Darling-Fischer Garden Chapel. By 1958, the couple were ready for their own business and chose Concord for its friendly community and small-town feel, even as it was continuing to grow.
Ouimet was a charter member of Knights of Columbus Concord Council 6038, a founding member of St. Agnes Church, active member of Concord Elks Lodge 1994, past president of Clayton Valley Lions Club and long-time member of Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, Concord Historical Society and Wahoo Tribe, Improved Order of Redmen.
He was an Oakland A’s season ticket holder, enjoyed playing hockey with his brother and helping coach the younger players. In later years, John enjoyed being with his sons car racing. The Ouimets enjoyed traveling in their retirement.
John is survived by his wife Sharon of 65 years, sons John R. (Jan), Tim (Shari), daughter Kathy (Roger); grandchildren Amanda Hayford, Steven Ouimet, Melissa Rieger, Chris Ouimet, Erik Rieger, Danielle Ouimet, Chelsea Ouimet and Giulia Sarti, five great-grandchildren as well as his brother Don and wife Bea Ouimet, numerous nieces and nephews and many dear friends.
A funeral mass was held recently St. Agnes Catholic Church and a Rite of Committal at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon. Memorials may be made to the Diabetes Youth Families, 5167 Clayton Rd. #F, Concord, or St. Agnes School, 3886 Chestnut Ave., Concord 94519.
Jay Bedecarré and Kara Navolio contributed to this obituary.