History & Staff

We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession, dedicated to excellence in service, and have the highest integrity.

Our History

Darby Funeral Home has been a landmark in Canton and Cherokee County since 1961. The funeral home has been family owned and operated throughout it's history. Earl Darby joined the funeral home in 1972. In 2009, Earl and his wife Olene purchased that funeral home. They are continuing a long history of service the community has come to expect. Earl and Olene are active and always giving back to the community. Darby Funeral Home continues to humbly serve while changing with the growing needs of the community.


Our Valued Staff

Earl W Darby

Earl W Darby, Owner, Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer

Earl W. Darby is a native of Cherokee County. As a child he attended Canton Elementary School and went on to graduate from Cherokee High School. After high school, Earl attended and graduated from Gupton Jones College of Mortuary Science. In addition, he is a graduate of Georgia Coroner’s Training through the Georgia Police Academy, a Medicolegal Death Investigation Course at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and Emergency Medical Technician School at Pickens Technical School. Since 1994, he also attends Georgia Coroner’s Annual Training.

Earl began working in the funeral industry while attending Cherokee High School in 1972. It was then that he learned the importance of providing quality service with the utmost integrity. Through his education, he became a Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer in 1980. His dedication to the profession led him and his wife Olene to purchase the funeral home in 2009. The business they purchased is now known as Darby Funeral Home located on Main Street in Canton, Georgia.

Since January of 1993, Earl has served the citizens of Cherokee County as the elected position of Cherokee County Coroner.

His professional involvement includes:
• Appointed to Georgia Coroner’s Training Council from 2004 to present
• Member of Georgia Coroner’s Association from 1993 to present
• Served in several offices of the Georgia Coroner’s Association including President in 2005-2006
• Served as Chairman of the Georgia Coroner’s Association Legislative Committee
• Served on the Cherokee County Child Fatality Review Committee
• Awarded Georgia Coroner of the Year by the Georgia Coroner’s Association in 2006
• Awarded LeRoy Simms Distinguished Service Award by the Georgia Coroner’s Association in 2006
• Selected to serve on the Georgia Department of Human Resources Vital Electronic Information System Oversight Committee

His community involvement involves but is not limited to:
• Member and President of the Canton Jaycees
• Member and Chairman of the Cherokee Community Action Committee
• Member of the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce (Past Board of Directors Member)
• Founding Member and Chairman for 5 years of the Cherokee Volunteer Aging Council
• Founding Member and current Chairman of the Cherokee Triad / S.A.L.T. Council
• Member of the Canton Masonic Lodge #77 (Current Chaplain)
• Member of the Cherokee Shrine Club
• Graduate of Leadership Cherokee
• Past Chairman of Leadership Cherokee
• Member of the Advisory Board for Life Link of Georgia
• Served as Volunteer Coordinator for President George Bush visit in 1992
• Served as Chairman for Relay for Life
• Former member of the Cherokee County Cancer Society
• Volunteered at the Cherokee County Senior Center for over 20 years

Earl and Olene have two children, two granddaughters, and one great granddaughter. They reside in Holly Springs, GA.


Olene Darby

Olene Darby, Owner

Olene McFarland Darby was born and raised in the Keithsburg Community in Cherokee County, Georgia. She is the daughter of Olin and Inez Mashburn McFarland. Olene and her husband Earl Darby are the owners of Darby Funeral Home in Canton, Georgia.

Olene attended Clayton Elementary School, Cherokee High School, and Atlanta Business College. She also completed and received certificates from Georgia Southwestern University (Rosalyn Carter Center) Caregiving Management and Education for Family Caregivers.

Early in her career, Olene was employed by Western Electric. Before becoming an owner of Darby Funeral Home in 2009, Olene spent 27 years working in senior services to include the Meals on Wheels Program. She retired in February of 2009 from Cherokee County Senior Services as a certified Information and Referral Specialist and Director of the Caregiver Program in which she developed. Olene is also a Certified Ombudsman in addition to being active with the Title V Senior Employment Program.

Olene’s community involvement includes but is not limited to:
• Cherokee County Fan Drive for Seniors
• Cherokee Community Action Committee
• Relay for Life
• Cherokee County Triad
• White Christmas / Cherokee Christmas
• Cherokee County Senior Network
• AIRS
• Senior Olympics for North Georgia
• Cherokee Learning Center
• Cherokee Family Violence Center
• Northwest Georgia Alzheimer’s Association
• Advisory Council for Geriatric Activity Place
• Speaker for Family Caregiver Groups
• Canton Jaycees
• Woodstock Jaycees
• Georgia Council on Aging
• Advisory Council for Elder Abuse Program

Olene and Earl have two children, two granddaughters, and one great granddaughter. They reside in Holly Springs, GA.


Ashley Hamilton

Ashley Hamilton, Administrative Assistant and Funeral Assistant

Ashley Hamilton has been a life-long resident of Cherokee County. Ms. Hamilton serves as the Administrative Assistant and a Funeral Assistant for Darby Funeral Home. Ashley is the granddaughter of the funeral home owners, Earl and Olene Darby. She began assisting at the funeral home part-time while attending Cherokee High School in Canton, Georgia in 2010. After high school, she was hired as a full-time employee for the business. In addition to working full-time, Ashley currently attends Reinhardt University in Waleska, GA and is expected to graduate with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration in December 2017. When not working or studying, Ashley spends her time with her daughter and family, or studying.


Joe Dowda

Joe Dowda, Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer

Joseph Edwin Dowda Sr. (Joe) was born on August 24, 1939 in Cherokee County, Georgia. He grew up in the Keithsburg Community between Canton and Ball Ground. Joe attended both Canton High School and Cherokee High School graduating from Cherokee in 1957. Joining the United States Army in 1958, he served until 1960. While in the army, Joe was awarded the Basic Service Most Outstanding Soldier Award. He also played on the post baseball team while stationed at the Army Chemical Center. Although Joe has owned several local businesses throughout the years, he first began in the funeral business working from 1961-1968. Joe attended and graduated from John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science in 1964. He is licensed by the State of Georgia as a Funeral Director and Embalmer. After spending several years as an entrepreneur, he went back to work in the funeral business in1999. After the funeral home was purchased by Earl and Olene Darby in 2009, Joe remained with the business as an important part of its success.

Joe was married to Shirley Hembree-Dowda in 1964. They were married for fifty years before her death in 2014. They have two children, Jody and Kathy in addition to four grandchildren. Joe has been a member of the Canton Masonic Lodge #77 since 1964 and is a past Master. He is a member of the Cherokee Shrine Club once serving as President. He also worked at Northside Chapel in Roswell, Georgia from 1987-1999. Joe served as Deputy Coroner in Cherokee County for thirteen years. He is a member of Chalcedonia Baptist Church.


Todd Sanders

Todd Sanders, Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer, Licensed Insurance Agent

Todd Sanders was born on August 6, 1966. He graduated from Brunswick High School in 1984. After high school, Todd attended West Georgia University on a football scholarship. In 1987, he graduated from Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service. Todd is licensed by the State of Georgia as a Funeral Director and Embalmer and a Licensed Life Insurance Agent. He is married to Virginia Lee Wigington-Sanders of Jasper, Georgia. They are the proud parents of one son, Michael Gabriel “Gabe” Sanders and live in Talking Rock, Georgia. Todd also belongs to the Canton masonic Lodge #77 in Canton, Georgia.


Chris  Collett

Chris Collett, Director of Administration

Chris is a life-long Cherokee County resident and the son of Linda Free Collett and the late Bobby Lee “Cotton” Collett. He was raised in the Keithsburg Community and grew up in Chalcedonia Baptist Church. He attended North Canton Elementary and Cherokee High School. He graduated from Reinhardt College with a Bachelor of Science in Business and Columbus State University with a Master of Public Administration. Chris retired in 2014 from Cherokee County after 20 years in law enforcement. He spent 16 years with the Sheriff’s Office rising to the rank of Major/Jail Administrator. The last 4 years he served as Chief Marshal and 9-1-1 Director. He is also a 2005 graduate of the FBI National Academy. In his spare time, he enjoys golf and writing a column for the Cherokee Tribune. He resides in Canton.


Hank Houston

Hank Houston, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Hank Houston is a native of Woodstock. He is retired from Lockheed Georgia. Hank is a member of Carmel Baptist Church in Woodstock. He and his wife Sherry reside in the Clayton Community.


Todd Klein

Todd Klein, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Todd grew up in Ball Ground, Georgia. He is currently the owner of Total Data Solutions. He is a member of Jasper First United Methodist Church. Todd and his wife Kellie reside in Tate, Georgia.


Robert Barber

Robert Barber, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Robert is a life-long resident of Cherokee County. He retired as the owner of Canton Auto Repair. He and his wife Betty are members of New Hope Baptist Church where he serves as a deacon.


Rev. John Paul Holaway

Rev. John Paul Holaway, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

John is the son of Rymon and Marlene Holaway and was born in Oneonta, Alabama. He has lived most of his life in Cherokee County. He attended Etowah and Cherokee High Schools and graduated from Cherokee in 1982. He is married to Kelly Henderson-Holaway and they have 4 children; Crystal, Isaac, Sarah, and Rebekah and 4 grandchildren. John is also an ordained minister and is currently the pastor of Siloam Baptist Church in Forsyth County. He has also served as pastor at Ophir, Four Mile, Nelson, Rock of Ages, and Zion Baptist churches. John and Kelly are members of Nelson Baptist Church and reside in Ball Ground, Georgia. John is also a die-hard Alabama Crimson Tide fan.


John Heard

John Heard, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

John Heard is a life-long City of Canton resident. He is retired from General Motors. He is a former member of the Canton City Council. John and his wife Delores are members of Hickory Log Baptist Church where he serves as a deacon.


Ray DeLuca

Ray DeLuca, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Ray was born in March 1951, raised in Pennsauken, N.J., and graduated from Camden Catholic High School in 1969. He attended and graduated from the University of Dayton and Camden County College. He married Paula Andrews DeLuca in June 1973 and moved to Canton, Ga. in October of 1974. Together they have 2 children and 3 grandchildren. Ray worked for the Georgia Department of Agriculture as a Fuel and Measures Inspector for 22 years and 13 years in the Animal Protection Division as an inspector and field supervisor. After 35 years he retired from the GDA on March 31, 2009, and the following day began working for the University of Georgia as a Companion Animal Emergency Planning Specialist from 2009-2013. He has been a disc-jockey since 1980 and works events such as weddings, reunions, car shows, parties, etc. His hobbies include repairing old advertising clocks, collecting Coca Cola memorabilia, playing softball, picking with his brother Mike, buying and selling at auctions and farming on their farm in Dodge County. He serves as a league director for the Cherokee County Senior Softball Association, board of directors for the Canton Main Street program, president of the Rock Creek Homeowners Association, past vice-president of the Coca Cola Collectors Club, honorary member of Po Boys Car Club and teaches Emergency Management Preparedness for Animal and Human Safety throughout Georgia and adjoining states. Ray is a cancer survivor and supports Relay for Life as well as Children's Cancer Research for one of his grandchildren. He considers Rev. Charles Davis as a great help and influence to his life. Ray joined the staff of Darby Funeral Home in December of 2015.


Dennis  Crothers

Dennis Crothers, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Dennis has been a resident of Cherokee County for the last 40 years. He is a retired mechanic that worked for North Canton Chevron for 18 years. He is married to Penny Page Crothers. They reside in Canton, Georgia.


Doug Owens

Doug Owens, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Doug is currently employed by Top Hat Limousine Service. He and his wife Jessica reside in Woodstock.


Rev. Mike Mullinax

Rev. Mike Mullinax, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Mike is a life-long resident of Cherokee County. He has served many churches as a Pastor in Cherokee and other North Georgia counties. Mike is currently the Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Canton. He and his wife Cindy Holaway Mullinax reside in Ball Ground.


Chris  Shaw

Chris Shaw, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Chris has lived in Cherokee County since his Honorable Discharge from the United States Marine Corps in 2003. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He began his law enforcement career in 2003 with the City of Holly Springs. He also worked for the City of Woodstock before moving to the Cherokee Sheriff's Office in 2007. Since his employment with the Sheriff's Office, he has worked his way up to the rank of Sergeant where he is currently assigned to the Intel Unit as a full time Crime Scene Specialist. Prior to his current position, he was an Investigator and Detective working Major Cases and Domestic Violence. Chris is married to Melissa (Harris) Shaw. They have two children, Avery and Tyler. Chris is a current member and Past Master (2004) of Canton Lodge #77.


Richard Hamilton

Richard Hamilton, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Richard is a life-long resident of Cherokee County with deep family roots in the Keithsburg Community. He is a graduate of Cherokee High School. Richard is currently a member of Canton Masonic Lodge #77 F & AM.


Jeff Bryson

Jeff Bryson, Part-Time Funeral Assistant

Jeff is a life-long resident of Cherokee County. After spending several years owning a trucking business and working for Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services, he is currently working in the trucking business. Jeff resides in Canton.


Johnny Champion

Johnny Champion


James Blalock

James Blalock