Our History

All longstanding funeral homes originally started in other businesses. In the beginning there were no undertakers. Neighbours, friends, and aquaintenances would do for you what you couldn't do for yourself. A carpenter would usually build a coffin, sometimes that carpenters shop would eventually evolve into a funeral home.

Sometimes people sold coffins in stores as just a piece of merchandise and that evolved into a funeral home as we know it today. Kendall Funeral Home started in just this manner, as a general merchantile store.

This is a 1900 picture of the general merchantile store in Pembroke started in the 1880's by John Tyler Lucas.

In about 1890 a young man named J. F. Williams came to Pembroke to work with Mr. Lucas., subsequently Mr. Lucas died and Mr. Williams took over the store.

Most of Mr. Williams' children were born in the upstairs apartment over the store.

When someone died in the community the family would haul a wagon to town - to visit the store. In the back of the store there were a few coffins - all of them wood, all of them cloth covered standing on end. You chose a coffin and then you chose an interior separate from that and they lined it on the spot. With nothing more than a few words of condolence, the empty coffin was placed on the wagon and taken home.

Once at home, the family would be helped by the neighbours to put the funeral together. Most of the time the funeral was conducted by the family or fiends in the home or in the local church. Eventually there were people who undertook to make such arrangements - normally just selling a coffin and providing a horse drawn hearse. Mr. Floyd Price of Newport is an example of such an undertaker, however his business never evolved into a funeral home as we know it.

Over the years, Williams continued to sell coffins. His delivery truck would carry not only a coffin but also other goods to deliver to customers along the route.

In 1932, coincidental with FDR's move into the White House, the post office moved from the Williams' merchantile store to the other end of town. In that day, the reigning political party determined the location of the post office (one of the benefits of the "spoils system").

Mid 1930's picture of the building above, now remodeled into one fascade. The left two windows and door were originally the post office, but became the funeral home. They simply had an office, room full of caskets, an embalming room, and a storage garage on the back for the hearse. That's all the funeral service amounted to.

Mr. Williams, went to Ohio and bought a new Chevrolet hearse in 1936 and sent to Richmond for a license. With nothing but a recommendation of his moral character and five dollars, Williams received his license. The funeral home now became Williams funeral home.

Original 1936 announcement of our new funeral home opening.

The Williams brothers: Doc, Raymond and Mervin.

"Williams Brothers and Company" consisted of Raymond, who was the original funeral director, Mervin and Doc. Raymond ran the funeral home up until the 1950's.

At that time, it was not uncommon for a funeral home to also operate an ambulance service. Ambulance service for this funeral home ceased on December 31, 1968.

The first funeral for Williams brothers was the president of the Virginia senate, not related, but also a Williams. A train from Richmond carried four governors and the legislature for the funeral which was held at the Presbyterian church in Pearisburg. An overwhelming number of flowers led the Williams brothers to call on competitive funeral directors to loan them flower racks. Such co-operation between most funeral directors occurs frequently today.

Mr. Raymond Williams continued to run the funeral home in this facility until 1947. In November of 1947 this entire building burnt down. Everything except the hearse (which they managed to push out of the fire) was lost, including the most precious of course, being the records.

They moved the funeral home into their old home. This home was located at the intersection of Snidow St. and Main street, just a few houses from the current funeral home location. One of the doors goes to a stairway upstairs where the funeral director or the person working for him lived. The other doorway is the entrance to the downstairs, funeral home.

Most funerals were still not conducted in the funeral home, they were conducted in the home or in the church. People took their loved ones home or to the church to "lay them out" as they said.

Until the late 40's and probably even into the 50's embalming was fairly uncommon. That was something extra that you had to pay a little more for. Then towards the mid 50's embalming became more widely used. At that time however, cremation remained virtually non-existent among rural Virginia.

In the early 50's Mr. Mervin Wiliams took over from Mr. Raymond Williams whose health was failing.

Mr. Royce Jamison (known as "Rastus")

Mervin's brother-in-law, Mr. Royce Jamison, the public all knows as "Rastus", took over the business. Rastus now operated provided ambulance and funeral service while also running a merchantile store. They had long ago, back in 1936, separated the funeral service from the store. The business was operated as "Williams-Jamison Funeral Home" from about 1952 until 1985.

On August 1, 1968 Mr. Eddie Kendall started as an apprentice at the funeral home - for both his funeral directing and embalming apprenticeships. In 1971 through 1973 Eddie attended mortuary school in Cincinnati, Ohio - becoming the first fully licensed member of the funeral home to attain both a funeral director and funeral service license. Until then, the funeral home had relied on the services of a hired embalmer.

On January 1, 1985 Mr. Eddie Kendall bought the Williams and Jamison interests, renaming the home Kendall Funeral Home.

Eddie lives near the funeral home to ensure that he is readily available when needed and is also the Pastor of Bethel Chapel between Narrows and Pearisburg. Being a minister and funeral director at the same time have complimented each other quite well.

When asked to reflect on the past 20 years at the funeral home, Eddie reports: "It's been a good journey. I've enjoyed the people and the people have responded and the business has grown. We do over three times as many cases a year now as we did in 1968 when I came here and we're thankful for the growth.

The funeral service has changed through all those years - it once was very simple but now it's very intricate. There's lots of pre-need and many more cremations - even burials at sea (even though we're not at the sea). And not so much just one price on a funeral but many prices - according to the diverse needs of our customers. Pre-need involves payments and arrangements, which was virtually non-existent in 1968 when I came here. Over the last 40 years that has changed in all the funeral services".

Eddie and all the staff of Kendall Funeral Home look forward to helping you in every way they can during the difficult time as you celebrate the life of a loved one.