Millard Family Chapels’ annual poinsettia deliveries add a spark of joy to local widows’ Christmases.

Sprigs of holly tucked into front door wreaths. Twinkling lights hanging from the roof. Shiny garland wrapped around the banister. All of these are small signs that the holiday season — and its spirit of generosity — is upon us. For hundreds of women across the Jefferson City area, the spirit of the holiday season can be found in just one simple thing: a poinsettia.

Marilyn Seaton and Reid Millard

Reid Millard and the Millard Family Chapels’ staff have a holiday tradition unlike many others. They deliver poinsettias to each and every widow they’ve worked with at the funeral home and have been doing so every year since 1990. After nearly 30 holiday seasons, their poinsettia delivery list now includes about 600 widows across Jefferson City and the surrounding communities.

“A friend that has a funeral home in the Boston area was doing this and gave me the idea,” says Millard. “I always wanted to let families know we aren’t just here for them in the few days that they’re here at the funeral home. We’re there throughout life. And this is a great way to show them that we really do care.”

“A lot of the ladies we deliver to invite you in, and many of them just want to talk. They’re lonely and really just like visiting with someone,” says Ambrose Buector, who has been a driver for the Millard Family Chapels for the last six years. “One lady I talked with for about 30 minutes. It was really rewarding for me and just really touched me. This is definitely one of our favorite parts of the job.”

“It’s a nice feeling for us, but it’s a great feeling for a lot of widows, especially those whose family lives out of town, or those who don’t have children of their own,” says Millard. “It’s a great way to remind them that someone is thinking of them during the holidays. . .The reception we receive when we deliver the poinsettias is just amazing. The first-timers mention to us that, being that it’s their first holiday season without their husband, this helps them through it. It’s a small token that might remind her of her late husband.”

That reminder was very real — and very meaningful — for 97-year-old Georgialee Dallas, who began receiving poinsettias 23 years ago from Millard Family Chapels. Her husband, Hugh, who battled Alzheimer’s for over a decade before passing away in 1995, knew how much Georgialee loved poinsettias, even as a child.

“At Christmastime, Hugh would make a point to find the first place in town that had poinsettias for sale and bring me one,” says Dallas. “When this poinsettia was first delivered after he died, I wondered, ‘Did Hugh send that? How did he do that?’ When I saw it was from Reid and his staff, I was just overjoyed. Reid really is such a thoughtful, caring person.”

Each year for over two decades, Dallas’s annual poinsettia from Millard Family Chapels sits in the middle of her dining room table, serving as the centerpiece to her holiday joy, surrounded by Christmas cards from her friends and family.

Marilyn Seaton’s poinsettia from Millard’s sits next to her nativity set each year. “The first Christmas when I received it, I just broke down in tears,” she admits. “I thought it was just so professional and thoughtful. I can’t tell you how moved I was.”

This holiday season marks eight years since Wayne Thomas Seaton passed away after battling kidney cancer. “For me, Christmas is the hardest time of year to go through. Even though it has been eight years, it’s a hard time of year when you’ve lost someone, especially your spouse,” says Seaton. “So, when that poinsettia comes, it really can be overwhelming. It’s bittersweet. It brings back such wonderful memories, so it is comforting, but it still brings tears to my eyes. It’s just so amazing that someone cares enough about you to send you something special during the busy holiday season.”

“I lost my own wife about nine years ago, before I came to work for Reid,” Buector shares. “I know how Reid treated me and my family and helped me through a difficult time. He would check in on me afterward, just to see how we were doing. Knowing how much he cares about the families we help through this difficult time makes me feel good. And it makes us all proud to work for someone that really does care for the families he works with.”

“This is not just a business to us,” says Millard. “Helping others is our life’s work and passion.”