Wednesday, July 9, 2014 —
Some men are known as a “jack of all trades,” yet Jack Hartsell was known most famously by one trade: the funeral business.
Hartsell, who spent around 70 years in the family business of Hartsell Funeral Home, died July 4.
Family members and friends remember him for a strong work ethic, one that saw him around the funeral home nearly nonstop.
Conflicting reports have Hartsell beginning work between age 12 and 15. One of the tasks he took on first was that of the ambulance service, which Hartsell Funeral Home once operated.
Jack and Miller James Hartsell, father of owner Jeff Hartsell, ran the business until Miller died in 1976. Then it was Jack and Jeff who worked alongside each other, more like brothers than cousins, as Jane Hartsell, Jeff’s wife, put it.
Jane said Jack was a link from ways the business was once performed — such as when people were embalmed at home and coffins were made inhouse — to its current state involving more options for customization.
“He has seen this business go from everything being done at the home to where we are today,” she said.
“He’s the only one who has seen it go that far. He was always very open to change and just embraced change as the funeral industry changed down through the years.
“Jack managed the funeral home in Midland. He worked funerals and knew families in five counties.”
She said he worked until a few years ago and even then he would continue to visit the business.
“He was always there at the business — night, day, holidays,” she said.
“He worked as long as his health permitted.”
When asked what led him to such a work pattern, she said “he just loved his work.”
“They just love this work and it takes a special kind of person to do this kind of work,” she said.
“Jack just, he just had that special gift of helping people get through the worst day of their lives, when they find out their loved one has died. He was just gifted and talented in what he did.”
Jeff Hartsell also spoke of what motivated his cousin.
“He was there for his friends,” he said.
“He wanted to be there for his friends.”
Monroe resident Nan Vuncannon, the youngest of Jack’s three children, said her father was once torn between working the family farm and entering the family business, but she thinks he made the right decision.
“He just had a heart for people,” she said.
“I think that’s what he really was called to do.
“He just had open arms for a hug or shake their hand or cry with them. He was just empathetic.”
Jack Hartsell also received praise from co-workers such as Jeff Branch, who has served part-time at the funeral home for 21 years.
“I’m going to miss him cause I always called him Uncle Jack,” Branch said.
“It’s going to be lonely out at Midland.”
Branch said he learned much from Jack and his ways of dealing with families.
“The families had a lot of trust in Jack,” Branch said.
“He was a very loved person. The community had trust in Jack and that goes from family to family.”
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