I am a third generation native of Atlanta, Georgia. I attended DeKalb County, Georgia elementary and secondary schools and received a B.A. degree in from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. Following college I attended and graduated from (the late) Atlanta Law School receiving both a LL.B. and LL.M. degree. After working for a while I decided to follow my lifelong compassion since high school and entered the funeral profession. I attended and graduated Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service having the privilege of being taught by the late Russell Milison and received both an A.A. degree and Graduate Funeral Service Diploma. I have been employed in the funeral profession at several funeral homes, both corporate and private since 1977 having had the privilege of working at the three largest volume funeral homes in the metro Atlanta area. Leaving the funeral profession I taught at Gupton-Jones for a year but missed the funeral home atmosphere so I returned to what I loved. Now semi-retired I am still actively associated with A. S. Turner and Sons Funeral Home and Crematory as I have been for the past 19 years. I am a member of the National Funeral Directors Association, the Georgia Funeral Directors Association and proud member of the Georgia Academy of Graduate Embalmers. I am fortunate to have had the same wife for 45 years resulting in two wonderful daughters and sons-in-law and four fantastic granddaughters and finally one grandson (not bad for an only child).
I am proud to be a member of the Academy of Graduate Embalmers of Georgia as I have been for the past 20 or so years. The annual clinics have always proven to be informative as well as educational. The 2022 clinic was one of the best clinics that, in my opinion, that I have ever attended and kudos should go to the Executive Director and each member of the board for not only this clinic but all of the past clinics which I have attended. Also, the benefit of seeing our friends and colleagues is a plus.
I chose the funeral service as a profession because it was always interesting to me. As a child spending time with Charlie and Charles “Sonny” Foster and being around Roswell Funeral Home there was always something about this profession that intrigued me. It was a way to help people. Back in the early 1980’s in a conversation when riding in the hearse in route to the cemetery with me Dr. Sam H. Coker former pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Atlanta told me “this is a ministry, no you are not in a pulpit preaching, but you minister to people in their time of need and help them through one of the roughest days of their life. This is something not everybody is called to do or is capable of doing”. Ever since this conversation my entire outlook on the funeral profession changed.
As it was put to me by one of my mentors “you can get a steak anywhere but people want and will pay for is the “sizzle”….this is what will set you and your establishment apart from the others……always remember that.” This has always been my goal over the years.
With the rise in cremation rate we, as funeral service professionals, need to put the “sizzle” back into funeral service, more serving the particular and individual needs of the family, more offering all available options for personalization of the funeral service and making the event stand out for them, more compassion and less “cookie cutter” same thing over and over. As the late John Wylie of H. M. Patterson & Son told me “ If a family can’t decide which of two things to do…think… show them how to do both…as long as it is not illegal or immoral we can do it.”
As to the future of embalming remember as Ernie Mosier at A. S. Turner & Sons put it “In the embalming process watch the hands of the deceased and not the hands of the clock.” Have the mindset of “attention to detail” remember this is part of the “sizzle”. It is the little things which add up and result in one big thing that will make the embalmer and your establishment outstanding in their field…..the “sizzle”.
With the increase in cremation we, as embalmers must do the best we can do in the preparation room. The funeral service itself can be outstanding and everything done to the most intricate detail BUT if mama doesn’t look like herself or the presentation is not up to the highest standards…..this will always “stick out” in the minds and memories of those loved ovens left behind. We owe it to ourselves as well as to those we are privileged to serve to do our professional best by using all of our training, experience and expertise in our field to make someone presentable and help insure the future of the open casket funeral service. Remember the funeral service begins with a properly presented body which is the main focus of and reason for every funeral service.