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Brooks Funeral Home to close at end of month

After being an active business in the South Boston community for almost eight decades, Brooks Funeral Home, located on the corner of Seymour Drive and Main Street in South Boston, will close its doors for the last time at the end of this month.

“As of March 31, 2014 Brooks Funeral Home, Inc. will no longer be in business,” said Kathy Comer, president of the company that opened here in 1935. 

Comer announced the funeral home’s closing Wednesday.

When asked to comment on the announcement Thursday morning, Kathy’s husband, Gene Comer, told a Gazette-Virginian reporter, “We are not going to discuss it any further than we already have.”  

He referred The Gazette reporter to a story that appeared in another publication saying, “You can rewrite what has already been printed.”

When asked to confirm the closing of the long-standing funeral home, Gene Comer replied, “I am not going to answer any more questions.”

When the reporter asked if she would be allowed on the property to take a photo of the outside of the funeral home, he responded, “I guess you can come stand in the road and take as many pictures as you’d like.”

According to information provided to another publication, the business office of the funeral home that has served the community for the past 79 years will remain open as usual from now until their closing date.

Persons who have pre-paid and pre-arranged funerals can call and schedule an appointment, and the staff at Brooks Funeral Home plans to work with these customers in moving their plans to other funeral homes. 

After hearing of the decision by Brooks’ management to close the funeral home, Powell Funeral Home Manager Robert Powell said their staff already has begun to notice an influx in business.

We plan to handle what we can,” said Powell, who noted funeral homes are not limited to a certain number of bereaving families they can serve at any given time.

Powell assured that transferring pre-arrangements from one funeral home to another would be “an easy process” with which they already are very familiar.

“It’s just a matter of a little paper work,” he added.

Brooks Funeral Home plans to continue assisting families who have already used their services in filing insurance claims and processing other necessary paperwork.  

Customers who are currently making regular monthly payments to Brooks Funeral Home should continue to do so uninterrupted, Kathy Comer said. 

“Anyone who has an outstanding balance that is not covered by insurance or an up-to-date payment schedule should contact the funeral home immediately to arrange payment,” Comer is quoted as saying. 

“For those who do not contact us by April 1, 2014 you will be contacted by an attorney who will be handling any further collection efforts,” Comer told another publication.

Michael Lyon, president and managing funeral director of Watkins-Cooper-Lyon Funeral Home, Inc. in Clarksville said he is “not surprised” to see funeral homes struggle because he said his business has seen a shift in business coming for two decades. 

“Cremation is changing the traditional family-owned funeral service business,” said Lyon.

“The era of multiple independent funeral homes in every small town is quickly coming to an end. Cremation is having a significant impact on the revenue stream of most funeral homes.  For years families did not require options.  Today there is ever increasing individualism in the way families wish to memorialize their loved ones, requiring funeral practitioners to be ever adaptive.”

Lyon added, “My family has long respected what the Brooks/Jones family has accomplished since the founding of their business in 1935.  We are grieved by their closing.”   

Lyon vows to continue the tradition of service that families in Halifax and Mecklenburg counties have come to expect from a family-owned firm vested in the community.  

“Our civic involvements include both South Boston and Clarksville. We are pleased to serve anyone within this region seeking quality, professional death care services - traditional funerals or individualized options.”

Stanley Jeffress, owner of Jeffress Funeral Home in South Boston, said Thursday he was sorry to learn Brooks Funeral Home management had made the decision to close.

“Brooks has contributed a lot to the community,” Jeffress said.

“If families call us, we will serve them the best that we can. We usually honor whatever previous arrangements have been made,” the funeral director added.  

In announcing the South Boston funeral home’s closing Wednesday, Comer cited economical reasons as well as changes in the funeral industry as a whole. 

“We can no longer afford to help people financially in their time of need because when we do, people don’t always follow through with their promises,” she told another publication.

Over the years, Comer said she has seen the funeral industry become more of a business than a service, and she said she couldn’t continue to run it in that manner. 

As president of the company, Comer said it isn’t worth it to her or to the staff to sacrifice their values to hold onto business, although the unwillingness to do so has hurt her company. 

Brooks Funeral Home was founded by Comer’s great-grandfather, George D. Brooks, and his cousin, Cyrus White, in Hurdles Mill, North Carolina.

Brooks’ daughter, Merle, became one of the first females ever licensed as a funeral director in Virginia and North Carolina.

George Brooks moved his funeral business to South Boston in 1935, and his daughter, Merle Brooks Jones, and her husband, Tom Jones, operated the funeral home for many years.

Following Tom Jones’ death in 1980, the couple’s son, Doug Jones, and his wife, Betty, operated the business until 2000 when their daughter, Kathy, purchased the business.

Kathy Comer has said she plans to continue helping “people who have lost a loved one” by serving as an independent funeral consultant for families who want or need assistance with funeral planning.