Fall 2003


For the second consecutive year, Waller Funeral Home has received the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) Pursuit of Excellence Eagle award. This mark of excellence honors firms for their outstanding community service, professional integrity, and dynamic public relations programs. Waller is one of 182 funeral homes receiving the Pursuit of Excellence Eagle award during the 2003 National Funeral Directors Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 19-22, 2003. No other funeral home in Mississippi has earned this award.

"The Pursuit of Excellence program is the premier standard for funeral service excellence. Funeral homes that achieve this special recognition are raising the bar when it comes to community involvement and providing families with quality care," said NFDA Chief Executive Officer Christine Pepper. To achieve recognition in the Pursuit of Excellence program, a funeral home must meet quality service criteria in nine categories: education, compassionate service, technical skills, community and professional service, library or media resources, professional development, in-house staff training, and public and community relations. The Waller Funeral Home staff carefully compiled an elaborate scrapbook documenting requirements for this award. Requirements are specific and exacting, and working through the program provides impetus for self-evaluation and improvement.

NFDA is the leading funeral service association, serving more than 20,300 funeral directors who represent more than 12,200 funeral homes in the United States and other countries. From its headquarters in Brookfieid, Wisconsin, and its Advocacy Office in Washington, D. C., NFDA provides advocacy, education, information, products, programs, and services to help members enhance the quality of service to families.

Personal Reflections 

On this indescribably perfect fall day, I have come alone to the highest hill on our property. I am surrounded by white fields of cotton. I see beautiful trees of all kinds, sizes, and colors not too far away, but the huge old, old oaks standing alone hold my attention. They are like old friends.

When I came to live in this community as a bride in 1952, I wanted our home, when we built, to be on this spot, then occupied by a tenant house. I accepted then that this was a very impractical idea; but later I rejoiced when we were able to build here the home we have lived in for 37 years.

As I revel in the beauty of fall, I am strongly aware that I am not truly alone. God is with me. In spite of this awareness and in spite of the fact that I have always enjoyed the season of turning leaves and gathering of cotton, I have recently been overcome with a lengthy, deep depression. Nothing has raised my spirits for long in this wonderful season. My yearly excursion to gather colored leaves for an arrangement at the church became a chore, one that I could not have done without the help of a kind friend. Afterwards, I struggled to Sunday morning worship service and was blessed by the witness with scripture, comments, and song during the opening of the service. But not even the wonderful "lull lou (love you), Pat Pat," by 20-month-old great grand-daughter Murphy Grace can relieve my depression for long.

I find consolation in knowing that I am not alone in battling depression. Recently I read again, this time in an Associated Press article by Richard N. Ostling, that Mother Teresa, now on the track to sainthood, also "was afflicted with feelings of abandonment by God." She wrote among other bleak expressions of the darkness in her life: "I am told God lives in me— and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul." Yet she lifted many others from their despair through her work with the homeless children and dying people in Calcutta’s slums. She believed the worst poverty was not material but total abandonment by other people, the state of those she was called to reach. Jesus cried on the cross about God’s abandonment. So I strive day by day for the assurance and consolation of God's love and for the strength to cope with the worries and problems all around.

Where do I look for help? prayer, scriptures, family, friends, and professional counselors. And I often find solace in the words of hymns. I prefer the old hymns which have provided strength, solace, and challenge whatever the need for generation after generation. These words are helping to sustain me in these difficult days:

"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future and bfe is worth the living just because He lives;"

"I trust in God wherever I may be, upon the land or on the rolling sea, For come what may, from day to day, my heavenly Father watches over me. I trust in God— I know He cares for me, on mountain bleak or on the stormy sea; Tho' billows roll, He keeps my soul, My heavenly Father watches over me."

"When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil."

I pray for our country—our world—for, each of us in these depressing and desperate times.

I share with you my personal thoughts because they are presently too overwhelming to deny and because I hope with my openness to help others accept and work through similar feelings.


Invitation to Memorial Christmas Tree Service

The third annual Memorial Christmas Tree Service cosponsored by Waller Funeral Home and North Oxford Baptist Church will be held at 5 p.m. on December 7 in the Family Life Center at North Oxford Baptist Church. The service will include carol singing, special music, prayer, a spiritual message, and, most importantly, a time for remembering deceased family members and friends. Everyone will be given the opportunity to place an ornament on a Christmas tree to celebrate a life remembered. You may
bring a personalized ornament or you can personalize one of the ornaments provided. Refreshments will be provided— but bring a dish if you want to.

This is a community-wide event. Everyone is invited—not just members of the North Oxford Baptist Church. Those who have attended past services have expressed appreciation for this time of reflection and encouragement during the holiday season. We encourage you to come.


Did you ever wonder about the beginning of the funeral industry? Probably not, but a recent review in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of a book by Gary Laderman, The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883 (Yale Press, 1996) caught our attention and took us to Square Books to order a copy. The book describes attitudes toward the dead from the death of George Washington in 1799 to the emergence of organized mortuary enterprises at the close of the 19th century. Some of the discussion is quoted and paraphrased below.

Early care of the dead was in the home. Family members, friends, and neighbors were responsible for making preparation for burial of the dead. Death, as birth, usually took place in the home. The death rate for infants and children was very high and the life expectancy low. For example, for females in Massachusetts in 1849, the life expectancy was between 36-38 years, while the age for males was slightly lower. Nevertheless, the familiarity with death did not ease the pain of survivors. Corpses were treated with respectful and dignified care.

The last moments before death were often marked by a dramatic scene with family, friends or neighbors, a physician, and occasionally a clergyman, and much significance was given to the final acts and words of the dying. After death, the body was "laid out" and necessary preparations for burial were made. Family members washed then dressed the corpse—usually in a shroud or "winding sheet." Shrouds were made of muslin, wool cashmere, or a cloth material treated with melted wax or gummy matter. Sometimes individuals made their own shrouds before death, but more often the shroud was made by friends and relatives who had come to the house to assist in preparation of the body. A neighborhood carpenter would often come to measure the body and make a coffin. Well into the nineteenth century in rural locations, most coffins retained a characteristic and unmistakable shape—flat-sided with a tapering hexagonal profile that fit the body. Many coffins had a sliding, removable, or hinged panel that allowed the upper part of the corpse to be viewed by the family and other mourners. The body would remain in the home for one to three days under constant
surveillance, especially at night. A special room—often a front room or parlor—was marked with black crepe, white cloths covering mirrors, and the absence of furniture.

"Close relatives, friends, volunteers, or sometimes hired help participated in the vigil over the dead, often called the wake. The primary duties for those involved in the wake consisted of ‘watching’ or ‘sitting up’ with the corpse until the time came to remove the body from the home. This type of activity allowed the survivors to be sure that death had definitely occurred, thus erasing the possibility of live burial, a prevalent concern at the time." Sometimes these watchers applied a cloth, soaked in vinegar or alum, to the face of the deceased. It was believed that this would assist in the preservation of the corpse while it remained in the sight of the living. Frequently a large block of ice was put in a tub beneath the coffin and chunks of ice about the body for the same reason.

Often the burial was on the family property, and the coffin was walked to the gravesite. Death rituals of various kinds were observed. The somber toll of church bells, with a system of publicly recognized codes, provided information about the death. Elaborate rules for mourning dress were followed by many women and men.

Major changes in the care of the dead were made during the Civil War. Many Union soldiers died on southern soil, and some family members either went or hired someone to go to the battlefields and take their bodies home for burial. Methods for embalming were devised and these embalmers were the beginning of the specialization of the funeral industry. Photography of the dead was also a thriving industry of the time.

After the Civil War, undertakers met, and the industry was professionalized in 1881 with the establishment of the Funeral Directors’ National Association, which still exists today as the largest funeral service association [renamed National Funeral Directors Association].

As our life styles have evolved, so have our methods of caring for the dead.

A copy of this scholarly discussion about death and funeral service is available at the funeral home if you would like to look further into this topic.


If someone from ten or so years ago stepped into Waller Funeral Home today, they would be amazed at the services we are now able to offer thanks to modern electronic tecimology.

More than 200 people have signed on for our e-mail obituary service, and many of them are telling us they are finding the service very helpful. No longer do they have to wait for the newspaper or word of mouth to find out about a death, visitation, and funeral— perhaps finding out too late to pay their respects in a convenient and timely manner. This service may be especially helpful to friends and relatives living away from the Oxford community.

If you would like to be included in this new free service, just e-mail your name and e-mail address—home, work, or both—to us (staff@wallerfuneralhome.com), and we will gladly include you. We will not e-mail any unsolicited material to you, and we will not allow any other access to your e-mail address.

We are now video recording all funeral services held in our chapel. The tapes make wonderful keepsakes and/or they can be sent to close friends or relatives unable to attend the funeral service. One video tape for the family is included with a funeral service for no extra charge. Because much of the equipment is stationary, we cannot provide this service in other locations.

Our new Tribute Program: "A Video Presentation of a Life Remembered," available for no extra charge, is being well received. Here is how it works: a family provides 15 photographs, we scan them into a program and send them to the National Music Service, Inc., in Spokane, Washington. The company takes the photographs, adds interest by interpretive focus and blends beautiful music and background scenery on a video tape. These can be shown on a television screen during funeral home visitation and/or on a large screen at the front of the chapel—perhaps before the funeral service. The videos make wonderful keepsakes to be enjoyed and shared now and with future generations.

We continue to provide personalized memorial folders at the funeral home register and printed programs of the order of service if information and/or photographs are provided on a timely basis. We continue also to make and provide labeled digital photographs of all floral arrangements delivered to the funeral home.

We are ever on the alert for additional ways to provide support and comfort for the families we serve.


Do you remember July 4, 2000, when the sky over Oxford was filled with colorful balloons showing enthusiastic support for fundraising for the World War II Memorial? More than $10,000 was raised locally. Waller Funeral Home was proud to be a part of this community project. Now the ambitious project of building this memorial has been completed.

The National World War II Memorial will be dedicated in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, May 29, 2004, nearly 59 years after the end of World War II. The official dedication celebration will span four days and will include a WWII-themed exhibition on the National Mail staged in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folkilfe and Cultural Heritage, a memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral, and an entertainment salute to WWII veterans by military performing units. Other related cultural activities will be held throughout the city. The monument honors all military veterans of the war, citizens on the home front, the nation at large, and the high moral purpose and idealism that motivated the nation’s call to arms.

The Memorial Day weekend celebration on the National Mall will culminate an 11-year effort to honor America’s Worid War II generation. The memorial was authorized by Congress in 1993. After several years of fundraising and public hearings, construction began in September 2001.

Details on dedication-related events can be obtained: by e-mailing custsvc@wwiimemorial. corn; by telephoning 1-800-639-4WW2; or by writing to the National World War II Memorial 2300 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 501 Arlington, Virginia 22201.

Everybody is invited! We helped raise the money—now is the time to start making arrangements for a trip to Washington, D.C., to take part in activities surrounding this historic event. Let us know if you plan to go.


Extensive interior redecorating at the funeral home is nearly complete. Painting and papering are finished, and new drapes have been hung. New carpet will be installed soon. Just like at home, the time comes when renewal and updating are needed, and we look forward to the new look. And, just like at home, we will be delighted when the sprucing up is over and everything is in place. Our decorator is a specialist in funeral home decor, and we believe the new look will be appropriate and pleasing.


The approach of the holiday season causes us to pause and consider how much our families and friends mean to us. We feel blessed to be a part of this community, and we are committed to providing careful, sensitive, professional service to those we serve.

We feel special concern during this season for those who grieve for and carry on without some special person. We are sending a pamphlet, "After the Loss. . .Coping with the Holidays," and a related article to those families we have served since last Christmas. If you know of someone else you think might benefit from these, please let us know.

Inspirational and dashboard calendars are available for pick-up at the funeral home as expressions of our appreciation and friendship to you.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year to each of you from each of us!

Waller Funeral Home Staff


"Dear Abby" from The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of August 12, 2003, makes a good suggestion about preplanning.

Dear Abby: I am in my mid-8Os, and recently a family member died. When I read his obituary in the newspaper, I was amazed at how much I learned about him. I later was told he had written his own obituary. No other family member could have recalled all the relevant facts regarding his life.
My wife—very delicately—asked my opinion about writing your own obituary. At first I was taken aback. But after thinking it over, I told her I felt it was an important thing to do. Most of us have prepared our trusts and wills to distribute our estates after we are gone—and that is not upsetting to us.
Abby, what do you think about people writing their own obituaries? — Murray

Dear Murray: I can’t think of a better way for people to "maximize their positives" and "minimize their negatives." Not only that, but a person then has the rest of his or her lifetime to polish, edit, and update the document. Talk about the ultimate opportunity for creative writing! (And you have the last word.)


What is the purpose of a Christian funeral? My aunt (who’s quite ill and unable to do much now) has asked me to plan her funeral service, but I’ve never done this for anyone. I want to help her, but I don’t know where to start.

Just a few weeks ago, my brother died unexpectedly. His memorial service comforted us, and honored God, which is what a Christian funeral should do.

One way your aunt’s family and friends may be comforted is to recall her life during the service—what kind of person she was.

But we also took comfort in remembering his faith in Christ and the assurance we had that he is now in heaven. Jesus’ promise took on new significance for us: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25-26). And in all of this, God was glorified, because our focus wasn’t just on Melvin’s life, but on the Christ he loved and served.

Ask your aunt’s pastor to help you design a service that both remembers your aunt and honors Christ. In addition, ask your aunt if she has any favorite Scriptures or hymns you could include in the service.

—Billy Graham
October 13, 2003, Commercial Appeal

We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from August 13, 2003, through November 6, 2003.

Mrs. Louise Metts Thornton — August 13, 2003
Mr. John Hubert Bowles — August 17, 2003
Mrs. Aneita Cole Tucker — August 17, 2003
Mrs. Virginia Jackson Livingston — August 18, 2003
Mrs. Estelle Henson Livingston — August 18, 2003
Mr. Charles Lamar Rawson — August 19, 2003
Mr. Johnny Anthony Rosales, Jr — August 20, 2003
Mr. Henry Raymond Mitchell, Jr — August 23, 2003
Mrs. Edith Harris Mansel — August 25, 2003
Mr. Leo Felix Urbanek — September 2, 2003
Mrs. Annie B. Waller — September 2, 2003
Mr. Jeffery Wayne Hutchinson — September 4, 2003
Mr. Truman Rhea Donaldson vSeptember 5, 2003
Mr. Charles Fred Taylor — September 14, 2003
Mrs. Vivian Bumgardner Dudley — September 20, 2003
Mrs. Cecelia S. Nichols — September 23, 2003
Mrs. Virginia Ann "Sally" Bowles — September 24, 2003
Mrs. Virginia Rebecca Robinson — September 27, 2003
Mr. Jerry Dow Johnson — September 27, 2003
Mr. Chia Hua Cheng — October 4, 2003
Mrs. Doris Garcia Vazquez-Villamil — October 6, 2003
Mrs. Ruby Duncan Adams — October 6, 2003
Mr. Rodes Settle Currie — October 7, 2003
Mrs. Marie Maddox Parham — October 8, 2003
Jacquelyn Grace Knotts — October 9, 2003
Miss Mary Helen Wiley — October 10, 2003
Mrs. Doris Lucille Bender — October 11, 2003
Mrs. Mimi Griesbeck Campbell — October 12, 2003
Mrs. Adene Lauderdale Blaylock — October 14, 2003
Mr. Frederick Duncan Brewer — October 18, 2003
Mrs. Mary Sue Taylor Lindsey — October 19, 2003
Mrs. Ethel Turner Kelley — October 25, 2003
Mr. William David Morgan — October 26, 2003
Mrs. Catherine Savage Palmertree — October 26, 2003
Mrs. Doris Allen Roberts — October 30, 2003
Mrs. Louise Rosamond Hill — November 1, 2003
Mrs. Louise McAlister Lemasson — November 2, 2003
Miss Winnie Marie Starnes — November 2, 2003
Mrs. Daisy Wrenn Parker — November 3, 2003
Mr. William Steven Clark — November 6, 2003

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