Jessie Hunter, 95: Helped oversee funeral homes
BY HANNAH SAMPSON, Miami Herald, Jan. 9, 2007
Jessie Hunter, who at 21 married into a mortuary-owning family and built a life around the business, died Saturday in Plantation. She was 95.
Hunter was the matriarch of the chain of funeral homes in South Florida that bore the name of her husband, who died in 1966, and son, who died in 2003.
Born and raised in Detroit, she married Fred Hunter, the son of a funeral director, in 1932. They opened their own funeral home there and moved to South Florida in 1950.
In a 1991 story in The Miami Herald, Jessie Hunter recalled her first experience styling the hair of a woman who had died. Her husband -- the couple had recently wed -- came upstairs to their apartment above the mortuary and told her it was time to ``do the hair.''
'I said, `What hair?' '' she said in the interview. 'And he said, `My mother always did the hair.' That did it. If she did it, I did it.''
HER LIFE'S WORK
The Hunters opened their first South Florida funeral home in 1960. After Fred Hunter Sr. died in 1966, Jessie kept the business going with her daughter, son Fred Hunter Jr. and his wife Lyn.
Today, though no longer family-owned, Fred Hunter's Memorial Service operates funeral homes in Hollywood, Davie and Fort Lauderdale, a cremation service in Miramar and a cemetery.
Hunter moved into an assisted-living facility in Plantation in 2005. Before that, she lived next door to the Taft Street funeral home that her family founded. ''It was her life,'' her daughter Cheryl Hunter Sullivan said.
The Rev. Harold O. Taylor, a retired Baptist pastor, said he didn't know anything about doing funerals when he moved to Davie in 1960 fresh out of seminary.
His first funeral was with the Hunter family's funeral home; many more followed, and he credits Jessie Hunter for teaching him how to tend to people during those somber occasions. ''I came to Davie out of seminary and she taught me more about working with people at the funeral home than I ever learned at school,'' said Taylor, 76, who still lives in Davie.
Sullivan said her mother's greatest strength was taking care of people who were grieving. ''She always knew what to say to make people feel at ease. She was very present for each person that was there. She was very authentic in that she knew exactly what they needed,'' said Sullivan.
Sullivan said her mother's interests stretched beyond the family business as well. She belonged to several organizations, including the Hollywood Woman's Club, Mirwood Pines Business and Professional Women's Club and Miramar-Pembroke Pines Chamber of Commerce.
Besides her daughter, Hunter is survived by grandsons Rick Hunter of Fort Lauderdale and Brad Hunter of Hollywood; granddaughters Janis Ericson of San Rafael, Calif. and Julie Ericson of San Diego; daughter-in-law Lyn of Hollywood; six great-grandchildren and two nieces.
Visitation is scheduled for 3-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Fred Hunter's Funeral Home, 6301 Taft St. Service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home, with burial following at Hollywood Memorial Gardens.
Click HERE to read our January 2007 Prayer Update with comments on my Grandma