Working in Clark County: Denton Harlan, Mortician

By Mary Ricks, Columbian news assistant




Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Mary Ricks:; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

Denton Harlan trained as a dance instructor but later became a minister. He worked at a local funeral home at age 22, then left to study for the ministry. Disenchanted with ministry, he returned to the funeral business and has remained a mortician for the past 45 years. Harlan loves music — think Willie Nelson, not Lady Gaga. The most rewarding part of his job: "Helping people when they desperately need help."Name: Denton Harlan.

Job/employer: Owner of Layne's Funeral Home, with his wife Barbara. Observed 45 years in the funeral business in January.

Age: 67.

Professional background: I was trained to be a dance instructor, but my girlfriend said I needed to get into a more stable line of work. Layne's Funeral Home had taken care of the arrangements when my dad died, and I heard they were looking for someone to work for them. I was 22 when I started there in January 1969. Later, I became a Christian and felt called to the ministry. I moved to Riverside, Calif., and attended California Baptist College. While attending college, I worked at a funeral home.

I got disenchanted with ministry, and in 1980 I moved back to Battle Ground to take over operation of Layne's Funeral Home. On March 2, 1981, my wife Barbara and I bought the funeral home.

Education: Graduated from Battle Ground High School in 1964, has an associate degree from Clark College and a mortuary degree from Mt. Hood Community College.

Residence: Battle Ground.

One word to describe yourself: "There are many words I would use. How about mildly sardonic?"

Most rewarding part of job: Helping people when they desperately need help.

Most challenging part of job: Not getting discouraged.

Personal/business philosophy: I try to be positive in the face of adversity.

Something you would like to do over: I probably would have applied myself more satisfactorily in college.

Best feature of my community: It is still a small town to a degree. I am personally involved in the community and I know a lot of people. I like shopping here.

What would make your community a better place: A community swimming pool. If I win the lottery, I will buy Battle Ground a big swimming pool.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: I start the morning with a brain freeze at Coffee Connection. I like the Hockinson Cafe and Cedar Mill Pub, but I don't really pick favorites; I eat in all of them.

Hobbies: I read a lot but also like fishing, hunting, traveling and leather work; learning to play the harmonica.

Activities: I enjoy public speaking. I was the master of ceremonies at last Thursday's Citizen of the Year banquet, and this was probably the fifth or sixth time I have done that. I am looking forward to being the emcee at my 50th class reunion later this year. I also officiate at weddings and funerals. I am frustrated that I don't have time to do much volunteering.

Favorite travel destination: Hawaii. Sometimes my favorite destination is anywhere Battle Ground isn't.

Most interesting book in last 12 months: "The Great Trek" by Zane Grey.

Most interesting play/movie/arts event: I recently enjoyed a movie with Tom Selleck playing Jesse Stone, but I don't remember the name of it.

One thing you want to do this year: Go to Hawaii.

Something you want to do within five years: I want to retire within five years.

Person you'd most like to meet: Willie Nelson, Billy Graham and get re-acquainted with Rick Warren, who attended college with me in California. I would also like a one-on-one conversation with John Bishop from Living Hope Church. I would have liked to have met Johnny Cash.

Person you'd least like to meet: Lady Gaga.