"Dad was really, really good about letting me do new things," he said.
Under Jeff Eline's direction, the showroom was remade to display partial cuts of caskets as samples, for instance, where there used to be entire caskets stacked up one on top of another.
"It was very overwhelming and disconcerting" for families, he said, surveying the room where an unusual discovery is also displayed. A premium cast-iron casket, originally built for Selby but never used, was found in an old family barn and brought in as a novelty for customers to see.
Services on the Web
But what has really changed is what people want from a funeral home, he said.
"People have busier schedules than ever and families are scattered around the country, so we've found that they want us to handle more" of the details, he said.
Customers also are looking for innovative technology to make funerals more accessible to those who can't manage a spur-of-the-moment trip, he said, and so Eline's began offering webcasting at the start of 2011.
"This allows us to record and broadcast a funeral service, which can also be archived for later viewing," he said, adding that Eline's has provided the service a couple of times since its inception.
Brian Ditto, executive director of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Chamber of Commerce, said Jeff Eline "has reinforced and honored the past while moving into the future."
"Jeff has brought a good marketing sense to the funeral home, and he has been open to incorporating people's ideas about how they want their loved ones remembered," he said. "He also has a keen understanding of just how many people his dad knew and cared for."
Ditto praised the family for steadfastly remaining independently owned and operated at a time when other companies "have been gobbled up by conglomerates."
Retired businessman Calvin Reter said Eline Funeral Home has been "a real asset to the community" and the owners have always been involved in "everything that goes on."
All of the funeral home's directors have served as chamber president over the years, he said, and recent generations were also heavily involved in the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company, which is preparing to celebrate 100 years.
"If there's something going on in town and you want Eline's support, all you have to do is ask for it," Reter said. "They're very generous."
FormerBaltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., a Reisterstown native who lived within four miles of his birthplace his entire life until moving to Cockeysville two years ago, said his father's law office was located next to the funeral home when it was on Main Street, and so he grew up with Jimmy Eline.
"The Elines were there in the aftermath of the final moments of many of my loved ones — my mother, father, brother," Smith said. "They are like friends welcoming you into their living room at a time of sadness and need."
Family members take pride in the calm atmosphere that envelopes visitors to the funeral home, Eline said. Staff is also well-known for being the guardians since 1920 of Reisterstown's clock tower, which was first installed in 1887 at Goodwin's Livery Stable, next to the funeral home, and operated on and off at that location until 1967.
Affectionately called "Big Ed," it was relocated in 1968 to the roof of the Masonic Temple.
In 1991, Jeff Eline took over the winding of the clock every Friday and performed that task faithfully until his father died two years ago.
"When he passed away we stopped the clock at 3:35, the time of his death, but two days later when we went to restart it we couldn't get it to start," he said.
But the clock's importance to the town made the decision to repair it at any price an easy one, he said, and he's returned to winding the clock weekly.
The funeral industry "is a business, true; but there's a level where it's more than a business at the same time," Eline said. "My family continues to believe that commitment to the community matters."