Building community is something Bruce Buchanan, chief executive officer of Flanner Buchanan, knows quite a lot about. He’s familiar with investing time into Indianapolis – so much so that the Indianapolis Historical Society Press recently published a book titled “Building Community,” written by Julie Young, about his family’s history and how much they’ve contributed to our city through the last 200 years. Buchanan is a sixth-generation Hoosier and a fourth-generation owner of Flanner Buchanan, which has multiple funeral home locations.
What is it about community and building relationships that is so important to Buchanan? To him it’s about what kind of story he’s writing with his life. He shares what his father would consistently say: “Know thyself, understand yourself.”
“My father understood the impact of his emotions and his thoughts, and how that would change his actions,” Buchanan says.
Funeral homes often become the epicenter of community because of the amount of families they build relationships with on a personal level. When you have great team members like Flanner Buchanan does, you can use those relationships to listen intently to family members’ stories and hear about a loved one’s legacy. You are also able to use the heartache and triumphs from those stories to do more for your community. Buchanan makes a point to attend funerals of those he did not know personally at all of his locations, as often as he can.
Outside of Buchanan’s day job, he’s an avid art collector and photographer. His daily passion is to go on adventures with a walk, camera in hand, sometimes just his phone, to explore, see how light is treating the world and find beauty in the mundane. He has an art exhibition called “10,000 Steps,” and every photograph sold benefits select charities. He’s been a part of donating one and one half acres of land in the Riverside area to the Flanner House for the years to come. The Flanner House staff will be building greenhouses on this land, which is considered to be a food desert.
Buchanan is on the committee of Rethink 65/70, which focuses on the reconstruction of interstates 65 and 70. He hopes to see the design of the city geared toward living instead of mere accessibility.
“We’ve become so spread out and so disconnected because we drive everywhere,” Buchanan says. “That’s part of the issue we have with social and economic problems. We need to rethink connectivity and it’s happening.”
In 2017 he was one of the business leaders on the task force to bring to life the 30-year dream of having a beautiful RiverWalk pedestrian walkway that connects to the Monon Trail and leads to Broad Ripple Park. Construction for this project is slated for the spring of 2022.
Buchanan graduated from Broad Ripple High School in 1973. Recently he was one of the alumni that helped the school document more than 1,000 artifacts left inside the building, which is now permanently closed. Buchanan recalls a significant experience in his high school career where segregation was no more. He notes the impact this had on him, and how it played a role in his appointment to the board of Martin University, which is the only predominantly black university in Indianapolis.
Buchanan’s grandfather founded Goodwill and was company president for 25 years.
“I’ll never be able to top that, but the thing I love is every generation of my family has done some pretty big things, sometimes quietly,” Buchanan says.
When asked what he hopes people remember him for, he says, “I would hope that they sensed that I cared a lot about their lives.”
His family has served many other families, but the unique factor about Buchanan and his family is that they find a way to help people help themselves. He encourages others to make a difference with where they are.
“Find an interest you enjoy and find a way to contribute to it,” he says. “It’s really that simple. If you want to do something good, you can do it for anybody, anywhere and any time.”
Broad Ripple is his home.
“When I drive to Broad Ripple, I’m not just driving to Broad Ripple,” he says. “I’m going by my great-grandparents’ house, grandparents’ house, and the house my dad grew up in. When I go to Patachou at 49th and Penn, I’m reminded of the old drugstore around the corner. I’d walk there as a young boy to get my haircut. Now I get to have lunch there.”