Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Homes began in 1984, when the late Willard M. Kelley, Jr. of Steuben purchased the Warren Funeral Home in Milbridge from the previous owner, Roland “Bud” Warren. The Warren Funeral Home was an established funeral business and flower shop, which had been in existence since 1903. The passing of the torch to Willard M. Kelley, Jr., a first-generation funeral director, illustrated a trend away from inherited ownership that would move throughout the funeral industry over the next few decades. Likewise, it signified the beginning of a business, which would grow into one of the most prominent funeral establishments in Downeast Maine.
Shortly after purchasing Warren Funeral Home, Willard began a working relationship with Joseph Bragdon, owner of Bragdon Funeral Home, Inc., of Ellsworth and Stonington. In 1988 Willard and “Joe” entered into a partnership agreement, and Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Homes, Inc. was born. In 1991 Joe sold his share of the business, including Bragdon Monuments, to Willard, making him the sole proprietor of the company with a growing collection of funeral chapels located in Stonington, Ellsworth, Milbridge, and Harrington. Joe Bragdon remained on staff as an integral part of the management team and an active funeral director until his untimely death in 1994. Click here to view the obituary.
In 1993 Willard purchased Campbell Funeral Home of Cherryfield, and the “Campbell” name was added to the growing family of funeral homes, making the venture Bragdon-Kelley-Campbell, the name under which the business operated until 2008. Upon the purchase of his Cherryfield business, the late Douglas Campbell (1925-2007), joined the staff as a part-time funeral director and remained until December of 2005, when he retired.
Finally, the Gardner-Hall Funeral Home was purchased by Willard in 2001 and brought under the umbrella of Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Homes, an entity whose territory now spans the 150 miles from Stonington to eastern parts of Washington County beyond East Machias.
October 2004 brought to a close an era of rapid growth and expansion with the devastating and tragic death of the man who had a vision for funeral service in Downeast Maine. Willard M. Kelley, Jr. died October 11, 2004 after battling leukemia for 1½ years. At the age of 42, he had committed more than two decades to funeral service and more than ½ his life to a variety of public service groups.
Today, the leadership and staff at Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Homes charts a new course while being ever vigilant to uphold the principles of professional, courteous, and respectful service that were instilled by their dedicated leader.