Joseph Milward, 1803-1883
Born in Baltimore in 1803, Joseph was brought to Lexington as a young child by his widowed mother. At 16 he became an apprentice cabinet maker and for a time was a journeyman craftsman in Cincinnati and later in Richmond, Ky.
By 1825 Joseph had returned to Lexington for good, opening a business with John Baxter, a wheelwright and wood turner. Their shop was located on South Broadway, on the same street and not far from where Milward Funeral Directors downtown home is located today.
While producing various pieces of furniture, they soon began to focus on producing caskets and providing aid for bereaved families in the community. Within 10 years, Joseph became sole proprietor of his business.
Although he would face major challenges and heavy losses during the depression dubbed the Panic of 1837, he weathered the storm and turned his company into one of the city’s most viable and successful businesses.
After 40 years in the business, Joseph retired in 1865 at the age of 61. His career was “a shining example of what sterling integrity and perseverance may achieve,” wrote The Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky in 1878. “Devoted to principle, he is always found on the side of justice, and his career has been marked by an unwavering adherence to right in all his transactions with his fellow men.”
A Key Decision:
Col. William Rice Milward, 1842-1915
When Joseph retired, he turned the business over to his remaining sons in 1865. One of these sons, Colonel William Rice Milward, would eventually assume the leadership role.
It led to a key decision in 1887, when Colonel Milward permanently separated the funeral directing from the retail furniture store. The business first moved to Main Street, and then, in 1896, to what is now 267 South Broadway.
Nine years later, in 1905, Colonel Milward had a three-story site built at 159 North Broadway. The building was 66 feet in width and 190 feet in depth. Offices were in the front of the first floor with hearses and vehicles stored in the rear. Horses were kept on the second floor and the third floor was storage.
The site that Colonel Milward built at 159 North Broadway remains the downtown site for Milward Funeral Directors today.
Colonel Milward had earned his designation through service with the Union Army in the Civil War. All of Joseph’s sons served. One of them, Charles, was killed in battle. William was not yet 20 when he enlisted in Company A of the 21st Kentucky Volunteers Union Army, elected as a first lieutenant. By war’s end he had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
He was a man of extraordinary vision and understanding — becoming an honorary member of the Lexington Chapter of the United Confederate Veterans despite his history as a Union officer. This ability to extend the hand of reconciliation was typical of Colonel Milward.
Upon his death in 1915, Major P.P. Johnston, chapter president of the Confederate veterans, issued an appeal in the Lexington Leader to all members to attend the funeral “…of our lifelong friend, Col. W.R. Milward, a gallant and uncompromising Union Soldier, always loyal to all that his service implied. The war over, he extended the hand of friendship to his fellow citizens, who retired from the fight and gave them recognition due to brave men…”
Attention to Detail:
William Rice Milward, Jr., 1869-1947
Born in 1869, “Will,” as he was affectionately known to his friends, joined his father in the family business in 1892 at the age of 23.
It has been written that the Latin phrase on the Milward coat-of-arms — nec termere, nec temide — best described Will Milward: “Neither boldly, nor timidly.” He embodied each of these seemingly contradictory traits, always finding the balance. His great talent was establishing a strong attention to detail. It remains his legacy.
That attention to detail was often born out of thoughtfulness for bereaved families. When it was customary to conduct funerals in homes, for instance, Will carried a small oil can in his pocket. He’d check for squeaky door hinges and oil them to prevent loud sounds by late arrivers from interrupting a service.
Often he would join a quartet to sing in the service if need be — which was second nature to him because he regularly sang at Centenary Methodist Church, located at the time directly opposite the Broadway funeral home.
He was one of the first members of the Lexington Rotary Club organized in 1915 and, as chairman of attendance, would often pick up members who had missed the previous Thursday meeting and take them to Georgetown to make up their attendance.
When seeking the services of other tradesmen for small jobs, Will often would not ask them what was owed but merely extended a handful of coins and say, “Take out what you want.”
Will went on to serve on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, became Director of the Lexington Rotary Club, and served 11 terms on the vestry of Christ Episcopal Church.
Not long after joining the family business, a quality horse-drawn hearse was purchased in 1895. Restored today, the hearse can be viewed at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Will took over the business when his father died in 1915. During his years the business had expanded into moving, packing, and storing of household goods — along with an ambulance service. By 1917 horses were no longer regarded as the ideal means of transportation. Milward began to motorize their many vehicles.
An Admired Civic Leader:
William Emmet Milward, 1904-1972
Emmet Milward entered the family business in 1926 and by 1942 had played an instrumental role in completing a comprehensive expansion and rehabilitation of the mortuary at 159 North Broadway.
Recognizing Lexington’s growth, Emmet supervised construction of a second mortuary in 1957. Located at 391 Southland Drive, the funeral home remains in service today along with the traditional downtown location and the newest facility that opened December 8, 2010 at 1509 Trent Boulevard.
Emmet was President of the National Selected Morticians in 1936 and was Secretary of the Kentucky State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers from 1936 to 1948. He was also involved with other businesses, serving as Director of Kentucky Utilities for 30 years and the First Security National Bank and Trust Company for more than 25 years.
His community involvement knew no bounds. He also served as Director of the Blue Grass Automobile Club for 42 years, twice serving as its President. When he was elected President of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce, he was the youngest man ever so honored. Likewise, he was the youngest potentate to serve Oleika Shrine Temple at the age of 32, and he served as the Master of Lexington Lodge No. 1, F. & A.M. in 1935. He was honored in receiving the Lexington Optomist Cup in 1936 for outstanding service to the community.
An avid golfer, Emmet shot two holes-in-one at Idle Hour Country Club, the feats coming 25 years apart.
His enthusiasm for life and commitment to the community prompted The Lexington Leader to editorialize upon his death in October of 1972 that Emmet Milward was “an irreplaceable loss.”
Continuing the Tradition:
Robert Emmet Milward 1936-Present
A graduate of the University of Virginia, Bob has carried forth the Milward tradition while serving on several professional associations — including Selected Independent Funeral Homes, Kentucky Funeral Directors Association and the National Foundation of Funeral Service.
His community service includes Charter Member, Past-President and 30-year board member of the Bluegrass Community foundation, Past-President Hospice of the Bluegrass and Co-Chairman of the 1991-92 Capital Campaign Committee. A former Vestryman at Christ Church Cathedral, he has served as a director of AAA Bluegrass/Kentucky Automobile Club for 29 years.
Bob has served on numerous boards, including The Salvation Army for 30 years, Lexington Federal Savings and Loan Association for 26 years, Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce, Headley-Whitney Museum, Better Business Bureau, Y.M.C.A. (High Street), United Way of the Bluegrass, Junior Achievement, Boy Scouts (Bluegrass Council) and as a Trustee at the Lexington School.
He was the youngest President of the Lexington Rotary Club and received the President's Cup in 2002, served two terms as Chairman of the Board of the Lafayette Club and continues on the Board of the Triangle Foundation and the U.S. Bank Central Kentucky Advisory Board.
The Youngest Generation:
Robert Emmet Milward, Jr. 1969-Present
The sixth generation of the family to carry on the Milward family tradition, Robert E. Milward Jr. Joined his father in the business in 1994, and currently serves as Vice President.
A graduate of Indiana University and the National Foundation of Funeral Service, he attended The Lawrenceville School and graduated from Henry Clay High School, Morton and The Lexington School.
He is a member of Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington Lodge #1 F&AM, Scottish Rite, Oleika Shrine Temple, Idle Hour Country Club and the University Club of Kentucky.
Rob is a graduate of Leadership Bluegrass, a member of the Board of Directors of the Lexington Dream Factory, the Better Business Bureau of Central Kentucky, a founding Board member of the Southland Association, and a volunteer and former committee member for the American Heart Association.
His professional affiliations include Selected Independent Funeral Homes (SIFH), Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky (FDAK), National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), and the National Foundation of Funeral Servie (NFFS), International Cemetery & Funeral Association (ICFA) and the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).
Rob and Lee Threlkeld of Owensboro were married on April 27, 2002. They have two children, Kathryn Elliott Milward and William Emmet Milward II.
Like his Grandfather Emmet Milward, Rob recognized the need for a funeral home on the Southeast side of Lexington outside of Man O' War Boulevard and supervised construction of a third facility that opened December 8, 2010. Located at 1509 Trent Boulevard, the funeral home is uniquely built to offer families flexibility when planning a reception, funeral or cremation service.
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