Black Funeral Directors in Philadelphia Urge State to Enforce Laws

Quaker State Funeral Directors Association members back row left Len E. Willis, Walter E. Sabbath, Jr., Michael E Forrest, Michael George McCleary, Robert K. Fountain and Maria Barnett, front row, Kenneth Dupree, Blaine Coleman, Marvina H. Bolton with her son Semaj Bolton and Sharon Ingram. — ABDUL R. SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER
Quaker State Funeral Directors Association members back row left Len E. Willis, Walter E. Sabbath, Jr., Michael E Forrest, Michael George McCleary, Robert K. Fountain and Maria Barnett, front row, Kenneth Dupree, Blaine Coleman, Marvina H. Bolton with her son Semaj Bolton and Sharon Ingram.
— ABDUL R. SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

Funeral Home Director Kenneth DuPree was a busy man Monday.

After hosting a mid-afternoon news conference to address two recent scandals in city funeral homes, DuPree, who owns a North Philadelphia funeral home with his name on it, got back to business.

“The funeral director’s role is to assist the family in the end-of-life process and prepare the body for the afterlife,” said the rubber-gloved DuPreee, talking on Monday afternoon as he was preparing a body for funeral services — which included pumping formaldehyde into the corpse, dressing the body and wrapping it in heavy, clear plastic. “The funeral service is a lifestyle. I am passionate about the families I serve. It begins the process of grief, which assists the families by bringing closure to them.”

DuPree spoke to an individual reporter after giving a press conference from his parlor on 28th and Diamond Street in North Philadelphia. His profession has come under fire recently with stories of alleged misdeeds by two of his fellow local funeral directors.

Charges were brought against the proprietors of the Hawkins Funeral Home this month for the improper handling of bodies and organs after a raid on the West Philadelphia facility.

Earlier that week, three decaying corpses were discovered in a garage across the street from the Powell Funeral Home, also in West Philadelphia. The garage was owed by the funeral home. No charges have been filed yet in that case.

Both funeral homes were found to have violations of operating licenses among violations listed.
DuPree and a group of other funeral directors wanted to sent a message that they, and other properly-operating local directors, can be counted upon.

“The funeral director is founded on spirituality and by the Black church; back then, it was referred to as the ‘invisible church,’” DuPree said. “And we assisted families not only in times of death, but funeral directors often gave loans to families, helped the community. There have always been more to what funeral directors do, and I really want the public to know they can trust the funeral directors in Philadelphia.”

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Source: Philadelphia Tribune | Damon C. Williams

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