Thomas Samuel (Tommy) Rhoades (1870-1954) came to Iowa with his parents, brothers and sisters when he was 11 years old. They settled on a farm in Monroe Township where the family grew up. After he completed his education in 1901, Tommy started the Rhoades Funeral Home and Furniture Store on the southeast side of the square in Mount Ayr where the Crain Medical Clinic is located. At that time the body was embalmed in the home and left there until the funeral services. Mr. Rhoades drove a team and would take a long folding table, embalming kit, a bucket, lantern and any other necessary equipment. The embalming took place in spare room which was the coldest in winter and hottest in summer.
The funeral business was so demanding that Mr. Rhoades sold the furniture part. In 1930 he bought a building on the west side of the square and operated his business from there. Later that building was bought and used by Dr. Mitchell for his practice. The bodies were still embalmed in the home to a great extent but some at the place of business.
Beside the funeral business Mr. Rhoades was a supply pastor for 43 years at the Methodist Churches at Benton, Caledonia and Fry Chapel.
In 1922 his son Clair Oliver Rhoades (1897-1962) became associated with his father. In 1935 they purchased the large Ezra McMaster home just west of the Christian Church off the southwest corner of the square in Mount Ayr. The home was remodeled and is still used today. The chapel was added in the Spring of 1952, enabling bigger visitations and funerals to be held at the funeral home.
Tommy Rhoades died in 1954 and Clair continued alone until 1959 when LBanks Wilson, a licensed embalmer and funeral director joined the business. Mr. Wilson grew up in the Clearfield Community and attended school there. In 1947 he graduated from the St. Louis College of Mortuary Science in St. Louis, Missouri.
When Clair died in 1962 his wife, Dorothy (1902-1971) was the owner of the funeral home with LBanks as the funeral director and embalmer. After Dorothy’s death the business was willed to Donella Rhoades Murphy (1919-1973) and she sold the business to LBanks and his wife Luella. The name was changed to Rhoades-Wilson Funeral Home.
The ambulance service was operated from the funeral home until January 1977 when the Ringgold County Hospital took over the ambulance operations for the community.
In 1981 the Wilson’s partnered with Jay Watson. Jay grew up in Diagonal and graduated high school there. He then attended area colleges and served in the Vietnam Conflict. In 1974 he graduated from Louisville College of Mortuary Science in Louisville Kentucky. He worked with Paul Varner in the Clearfield, Diagonal, and Tingley Funeral Homes, entering into a partnership in 1979 and becoming full owner in 1981. The Tingley funeral home was closed at this time and the funeral home became Wilson-Watson Funeral Homes.
Bill Armstrong came to the business in 1988. He grew up in Mechanicsville, IA. He graduated from Mortuary School in Dallas, TX and served his apprenticeship with Coen-Beaty Funeral Home in Creston, IA.
In 1992 LBanks and Luella retired and sold their interest to Jay and Donna Watson. In 1996 Bill and Sandy Armstrong became partners in funeral home and the name became Wilson-Watson and Armstrong Funeral Home.
On January 1, 2009, Bill and Sandy purchased the funeral home from Jay and Donna and the name was changed to Armstrong Funeral Homes.