The oldest black family owned business in Spartanburg is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary this year.
It is a funeral home that has served the community through two world wars, the great depression, and 17 presidents.
Generations of round the clock service has given the J.W. Woodward funeral home a long life.
Back when a casket was $22 dollars, and a full funeral $36 John Woodward was called on to fulfill a need in Spartanburg’s black community.
“At the time my grandfather was a farmer, so the funeral profession was not on the horizon for him, but he agreed and we have been serving since then,” said Kay Woodward, the current director.
She is the third of five generations who have worked at the J. W. Woodward Funeral Home for the past century.
“There are days I feel like I’ve been here all 100,” she said, laughing.
It’s a business that has no weekends or holidays. But as Kay’s daughter, Stinson Woodward Ferguson tells us, it’s in their blood.
I was in the gifted and talented program in elementary school and one of my flow charts that I constructed was the embalming process. But that did not seem strange to me, and my teacher at the time did not discourage it,” said Ferguson.
For the first half a century, the Woodward family offered additional services that were often inaccessible to the black community, things like loans, ambulance services, even a laundromat.
“Both my father and grandfather had a spirit of service and care and concern for the needs that were not being met in the community and those were extensive,” said Woodward.
Clients say they see that humanity in the way Woodward does business today.
“We had finished taking care of last requests, we get back home, there’s a knock at the door and there stands this gentleman from Woodword funeral home and he’s got a box of food for us. I don’t know how she knew it was one of my favorite restaurants,” said Yolanda Keenan who buried 4 family members with the funeral home.
100 years of helping families through loss, in many ways has been a gift for the Woodwards.
“That’s a question I get asked very often, how do you deal with death every day. And the irony is when you help others you help yourself as well,” said Woodward.
For upcoming events connected with the Woodward home’s centennial like blood drives and the Gala in May, please contact the funeral home at: (864) 582-6751