Tom Flintoft remembers when Issaquah’s border was marked by a sign that said, “Population: 250.”
The Flintoft family and the city go back 70 years. In 1938, Tom Flintoft’s parents, Bill and Alberta, founded Flintoft’s Funeral Home and Crematory on East Sunset Way. It has remained in the family for three generations and is still going strong.
Bill first worked at a funeral home in Seattle but wanted to run one himself, so he and Alberta scoured both Issaquah and Edmonds before stumbling upon what Alberta deemed the “perfect place.”
“They were driving around, looking at Issaquah, and they saw this house here,” Tom, their son, said. “It was a doctor’s office, and his home, and the doctor just passed away … so, they walked up to the door and asked, ‘Are you interested in selling it?’”
Not only did the Flintofts convert the picturesque white house into a funeral home, they moved in completely. Tom lived there until he was 7, when they moved into the house next door, a stone’s throw away.
“I don’t remember anything unusual at all,” he said, about being raised in such a unique environment. “When you’re born here, everything’s normal. We just had to be quiet a lot.”
Along with his older sister and younger brother, Tom grew up assisting his parents with the business.
“I used to wash cars and cut the lawn,” he said. “I started riding with my dad when I was 7.”
By the time Tom was 14, he was going on house calls with Bill and helping him to move bodies. It was simply part of the job.
Allen Flintoft, Tom’s eldest son and the third generation of Flintoft’s funeral directors, said that childhood in the funeral home didn’t just mean physical tasks.
“Growing up, we were always taught to think of other people first, put those people ahead of yourself,” Allen said. “Both grandma and dad have preached that throughout the years.”
Although Allen and his younger brother and sister never lived in the funeral home, they still spent plenty of time within the walls where so many families have said final goodbyes to loved ones. Calm classical music whispers around the home, with pictures of soft landscapes creating a peaceful atmosphere during harsh times.
Allen said death is “one of the three greatest or traumatic times in life. You have birth, you have marriage and you have when somebody passes away.”
And, though some might say it must feel odd to spend so much time around death, Allen disagrees, saying that it’s humbling for people to choose to experience the moment at Flintoft’s.
“This is a huge event in their life,” he said. “For us it’s not strange, it’s an honor.”
Elizabeth Baty, a funeral director at Flintoft’s, said that the family’s attitude of service translates into the treatment of every single person they serve.
“They frequently make decisions that are in the best interest of the customer — but maybe not of themselves — and that’s just their family way,” Baty said.
Baty and her younger brother Chris, who also works at Flintoft’s, experienced this firsthand when her mother became deathly ill shortly after she started at the funeral home. She was diagnosed with cancer, so Elizabeth and Chris immediately flew to her home in Alaska to be with her.
“[Allen] sent food to us, whatever we would ask for, he just did,” Elizabeth said. “He’d ask, ‘What do you need right now? Just tell me what you need.’”
Allen, who has a 4-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son, lives in Sammamish. His wife owns the hair salon A Salon on Gilman Boulevard.
He said that the family does want to serve another generation, but he’s not going to pressure his kids into the profession.
“My father never pushed me – it was always, ‘If you want to do it, it’s here, it’s available for you,’” Allen said.
It definitely is “here;” Issaquah and Flintoft’s have been together for seven decades.
“It’s not just the town we live in,” Allen said. “The town has become part of us and we’ve become part of the town.”