Home Grown: Senter Funeral Home

Senter Funeral Home co-owners Jonathan Deaton and Shane Turner say that running a funeral home means wearing a lot of different hats. It involves a little bit of science; some event planning; quite a bit of business management; and, perhaps more than anything, a willingness to listen and sympathize. (Photo by Adam Armour)

“A funeral home is unlike any other business,” said Senter Funeral Home co-owner Jonathan Deaton, perhaps a little needlessly.

Most wouldn’t argue that dealing with the business of death doesn’t really compare to much else out there. It’s part retail store, part science lab, part counselor’s office, part event coordinator and part beauty salon all crammed into one building.

It takes a special kind of person to run a funeral home, which is why most funeral directors are born into it.

Deaton, for example, is a  fourth generation funeral director. Some of his fondest memories involve heading out to the cemetery with his father to help dig graves.

“I’ve been around death all my life; it’s all I’ve ever know,” Deaton said.

Which makes Deaton’s partner and close friend, Shane Turner, different. Unlike that of his partner, Turner’s lineage isn’t brimming with funeral directors. Believe it or not, Turner picked this career path years ago.

“I honestly can’t pinpoint what exactly made me want to do this, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do since junior high,” Turner said.

Turner began working for the Deaton family at the Fulton funeral home straight out of mortuary school, during which time he struck up a close friendship with Jonathan Deaton. But after five years, Turner moved on to a 10-year career at Complete Home Health Care.

When Deaton’s father, Mike, decided to sell the business last year, his son asked Turner if he’d like to partner up … something they’d talked about dozens of times.

“We said for years if the opportunity arose, we would buy the funeral home,” Turner said.

“It’s always been a dream of ours to have our own place,” Deaton said.

But why? What exactly is it about the business of death that appeals to people like Turner and Deaton?

First and foremost, it’s about service. Deaton called it a “need to help people,” a sentiment with which his partner agreed.

“You’re working with people during some of the worst times in their lives,” Turner said, adding that it’s a heavy responsibility. “And this is where people have their last memories of their loved ones.”

“They’re trusting us to take care of someone they loved,” Deaton said. “We’re both humbled by and appreciative of that.”

That trust, he said, is built over generations. That’s why the funeral home business is carried on from parent to progeny. Most funeral directors aren’t Shane Turners, they’re Jonathan Deatons — born into the business.

Either way, both men agree it’s a good business to be in. Death shouldn’t be solely about sorrow over losing a loved one; it should be a commemoration of everything that person accomplished.

Both Deaton and Turner agree: A funeral isn’t about death at all …

“A funeral service,”  Turner said, “is a celebration of life.”

adam.armour@journalinc.com

About Adam Armour

Adam Armour has been writing and taking photographs for "The Itawamba County Times" since 2005. His words and pictures have earned 11 Mississippi Press Association Awards, including several "Best of" category recognitions. He has written and independently published one novel and is currently working on a second.