Funeral Director & Embalmer
I was talking with Sheldon Butts one afternoon and I mentioned I needed a new subject to write about. He had given me a few suggestions when Melvin Huell’s name came up.
I invited Melvin to have lunch with me at Aunny’s on Front Street one afternoon. Who knew he would smell so good. He smelled better than the food! Anyone who knows Melvin knows that when I say the first time we met was under sad circumstances knows it’s because he’s a funeral director and embalmer at Wild’s Funeral Home over on Merriman Rd. This is a family owned business that’s been passed down from generation to generation since 1911. They’ve been in business for over 100 years.
“I am the fourth generation,” Melvin said of his family’s business. “My great-grandfather started it. I love what I do, too. I truly love my job.”
“Do you have to have a degree or some type of college to do what you do,” I asked jotting down some notes.
“Yes, you do,” he answered. “I graduated from Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Services in 1993. After graduation, I almost didn’t come back to Georgetown. I liked the big city life down there in Atlanta. Nothing ever closes there. Here in Georgetown it was so small; so slow. Up until about 20 years ago, businesses along Front St closed at one on Wednesdays because nothing ever happens here.”
I agreed. “Yes, this town is slow, like it is lost in time, but that is the beauty of it. It’s small, everyone knows everyone. For instance, do you remember Penny Thomas Barbour?”
“Of course I do,” he exclaimed with delight.
“Good, because I told her we were meeting here at Aunny’s and I half expect her to come through the door to crash the interview.”
We both laughed for a minute and then I asked why he eventually changed his mind and came back to his hometown.
Melvin answered, “I learned to appreciate Georgetown for what it is. I leave for work fifteen minutes before I need to and I’m never late. Even the road construction on Fraser St doesn’t slow me down. I still make it on time. I can get from one end of town to the other without the hassles of big city traffic. Like I said, I learned to appreciate the slowness and closeness of this town.”
We talked a little bit about his college days. He told me about when he was in school, the instructor told the class to look at the person to their left, then to the right, and behind them because only one out of four will graduate. The instructor went on to explain that people would be weeded out by tardiness and punctuality, self-tolerance, and studies. “And he was right. We started with about 400 students and only 130 graduated,” Melvin said about his education.
We had ordered our meal and the waitress was bringing it to the table when I said, “Well, your family has been doing this for so long and you’ve grown up with it.”
Melvin shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I went to school with someone whose family is related to Goldfinch Funeral Homes. You know who they are, right?” When I nodded that I did (because my mouth was full of lima beans), he added, “He couldn’t take it and his family has been in business for a long time, too.”
Melvin has one child with his late wife. She’s eighteen years old and she refuses to work with him at the funeral home. “Is she afraid to,” I asked.
“No, not at all,” he answered with a laugh. “She’s just smart not to. I’ve told her to come to the funeral home, she can work for me and she refused. She said she was not going to work for me.”
We talked more about his daughter and his girlfriend and shared a few stories back and forth. I told him a story about my older brothers who had a friend, Bob Keel; he worked in a funeral home and the prank he played on one of my brothers. After which I said, “Which brings me to the big question I know everyone will be looking for. Is the funeral home haunted? Are there ghosts?”
“I have not seen anything or heard anything,” he answers laughing. “I know some of the employees have said they’ve heard footsteps and have seen things move. I usually work at night when it’s real quiet and, like I said, I haven’t heard anything.”
Working at night - in a funeral home? O-M-G! At this point I’m thinking, this guy is working in a 100 year old family business so I’m sure he could cherry pick his hours. I had to ask, “Why would you work at night?”
I must have shown something on my face because he was laughing when he answered, “It’s quieter. No phones ringing, no one at the door, it’s peaceful and I’m not bothered while I work.”
I shivered and asked, “And no ghosts in the silence?”
“Not there. But at the old funeral home where we used to live, I’ve experienced things of the paranormal,” Melvin explained. “The original funeral home was downstairs and the upstairs was the family’s living quarters. I had a lot of friends say they’ve seen, heard, or just felt the presence of something. My best friend, Jody, lived with me for a while and he told me about an experience he had while we lived there.”
“In the old house,” I asked between bites.
Melvin nodded. “Yes, in the old house. He said he was lying there one night and felt a presence. When he looked, it was a dark hooded figure. Jody said he couldn’t move. It was like he was paralyzed for several minutes.”
“It’s the hag,” I explained and told him of my own experience with the hag.
“Yes! That’s what it was. You can believe the lights were on in the house after that, all the lights, every night until I moved out.”
Now that was funny!
Shortly thereafter, we finished our lunch and I thanked him for his time. I hated to see him go. Melvin was a real pleasure and the perfect subject. As I told him as he was leaving, “I hope I see you again sometime, just not as a customer.”