By Jacuqelyn Pillsbury
Edgar Peppler didn’t always want to get involved with his family’s mortuary business. Now the owner of Peppler Funeral Home on Crosswicks Street, Peppler fought entering the family business and initially became a high school teacher. He admits, though, “I always knew I’d try to keep it going,” and he’s been at the home ever since.
Peppler Funeral Home, with locations in Bordentown and Allentown, has deep local roots. Originally opened in 1848 as Fiddler Funeral Home on Church Street in Allentown, it became Leming Funeral Home in 1887 when George V. Leming bought the business.
The first Peppler entered the scene in 1919 when Norman T. Peppler asked Leming, his uncle, if he could join the family business. Though only a 14-year old high school sophomore, Norman—who was orphaned at age eight and raised by Leming—understood the importance of the care his uncle’s business provided to the community members.
After graduating from Eckels College of Mortuary Science in Philadelphia and completing a six-week preparation class, Norman received his funeral directors’ license after he turned 21, and bought into the family business. In 1927, the business was renamed Leming and Peppler Funeral Home.
A dozen years later, he moved the funeral home to its current location on Crosswicks Street in Bordentown and renamed it Peppler Funeral Home. Later, his sons, Edgar Norman and Robert, became third-generation owners. Edgar Norman is Peppler’s father, and it was his idea to branch out and open another location in Bordentown.
Peppler grew up in Bordentown, and attended the Bordentown schools. He still lives in town and continued to teach, this time educating future funeral directors at Mercer County Community College.
Peppler is one of two members of the family’s fourth generation to own the family funeral business. His cousin, Karen E. Peppler, earned her funeral director license in 2001 and owns and operates the Allentown location. In 2012, Peppler’s son, Edgar Ross Peppler, graduated from Mercer County Community College and became a licensed funeral home director, and became the fifth generation in his family to help run the Peppler Funeral Home.
Peppler admits there are “too many Edgars, but no one wanted to be Norman.” He is known among family and friends as Pep, Ed, or Eddie. His son goes by Ross.
“Our business is steeped in tradition, as is our building,” Peppler said. The Bordentown location used to house a soda bottling company before his father bought it in 1965. At one point it was turned into four apartments and a speakeasy. “Someone purchased it a year before we did,” Peppler said. “The building has some history, but we can’t figure out what it dates back to.”
The home is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“We care about our families,” Peppler said. “We have had many generations of families—moreso in Allentown, but we are one big happy family. We help each other.”
He, Karen, and more recently Ross, make sure at least one Peppler is available when needed. There are no outsiders in their family business. Peppler is adamantly against the industry trend of “funeral by number,” as he puts it. “Instead, we go back to help families. We want to be someone they know in their time of grief,” he said.
Peppler admits the funeral business is not “9-to-5. As soon as you make plans, if you plan a vacation or a night out, a phone call could change all that. The family wants you.” All of the Pepplers understand, which is why they make sure at least one family member is available at all times. Sandra, his wife of 33 years, understands. Their daughters, Morgan, a buyer for Ross Dress for Less, and Madison, a college student in Florida, have not yet expressed an interest in joining the family business. Then again, Peppler had another career before he became a funeral director.
The family is involved with the Bordentown and Allentown communities and help support groups through donations. “We are here and we help if people need help. We are very fair with people,” Peppler said.
Peppler Funeral Home, 122 Crosswicks St., Bordentown (609) 298-1333; and 114 South Main St., Allentown, (609) 259-7391. On the web: pepplerfh.com.