Bright Side of Business: Despite pandemic, Ottawa funeral home helps families celebrate the lives of loved ones

Editor's Note

The Bright Side of Business is presented by Star Motors. Star Motors



Ever since he was a kid, Barry McNulty was fascinated by the funeral industry. “I’ve always been a person that likes helping people,” he says.

For 27 years and counting, that’s exactly what McNulty has been doing in his profession. Today, he is the location manager at McEvoy-Shields Funeral Home & Chapel on Hunt Club Road. After almost three decades, it’s safe to assume McNulty has seen a lot of things in his line of work. Then, the pandemic hit. 

Barry McNulty

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Across Ontario, several funeral homes faced staffing shortages during COVID-19. Luckily, McNulty says, McEvoy-Shields wasn’t too impacted — with a small staff and large building, social distancing was a relative breeze. 

“Other sister firms in Ottawa weren’t as lucky,” McNulty says, referring to Dignity Memorial, the network to which McEvoy-Shields belongs. Bigger funeral homes had to split up staff for safety reasons, rotating who was staying home and who was coming in at any one time.

New ways of mourning 

Still, McNulty’s team had their own fair share of challenges. “It’s a very difficult time going from having full visitations (and) funerals with no capacity limits, to being told that you could have 10 people in your building at any one time,” McNulty says.

With full funeral services on hold, families began downgrading pre-paid funerals. Some opted to have a loved one cremated — a less expensive option, as there are fewer services and products to buy. 

“(It) takes a toll on your business because people are not spending the money that they would have spent,” McNulty says. 


Business aside, McNulty and his team play a critical role in supporting families through one of the hardest periods of their lives — something that was made all the more challenging with pandemic restrictions. “People are not able to grieve in the traditional sense that they would have been able to grieve,” McNulty says.

Once the pandemic subsides, McNulty expects an influx of delayed services to hit the firm, mainly from families who planned to hold a celebration of life after COVID-19. “It all comes full circle, because then you’re reliving (the loss of a loved one) two years after the fact,” he says. “I think it’s very, very difficult for some families.” 

Together apart 

While the firm still runs services with limited capacity — in some cases, visitors can “cycle” in and out of the location, paying respects to the family in scheduled time slots — it also offers a streaming service, with a mobile camera set up in the chapel, church or cemetery. 

“At least this gives the family a sense that there are people that are still there with them, watching online,” McNulty says.

Dignity Memorial also has a unique “compassion helpline”, answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week by licensed therapists. “We’ve given out a ton of those cards to families throughout the pandemic,” McNulty says.

Looking to the future, McNulty feels positive. “We’re just hoping that things open up again and families will be able to reunite and have funerals as they’ve had before.”

The Bright Side of Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.

This column is presented by Star Motors, Ottawa’s original Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes Van dealer.

Since 1957, Star Motors has provided its customers with the Mercedes-Benz “The Best or Nothing” standard in vehicle selection, service, genuine parts and certified collision repair.

For your convenience, you may shop, research, chat and compare vehicles online at, and visit the 400 West Hunt Club location or call (613) 737-7827 for the very best in personal service.

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