Friday, September 27, 2013

Harold Ford Sr. Not Ready to Retire; Opens New Funeral Home

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 4:10 PM

It has been more than 30 years since there were more Fords in the funeral business than in the politics business.

But that's the case now that former congressman Harold Ford Sr., godfather of the most politically powerful family in Tennessee including his son, former congressman Harold Ford Jr., is opening Serenity Columbarium and Memorial Garden. The first phase, the Harold Ford Funeral Chapel, was the site of Friday's open house. The facility will employ approximately 100 people when completed.

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The site is on Sycamore View in northeast Memphis between Interstate 40 and Summer Avenue. Ford bought it from Belz Enterprises and plans to expand beyond the present "Harold Ford Chapel" into additional new buildings on the property.

A columbarium is a place where ashes are stored in small "niches" for those who choose cremation instead of burial. Cremation generally costs less than half as much as burial but was slow to gain acceptance in Memphis and the South. Ford said 42-44 percent of people choose cremation today, compared to less than one percent when he started in the business as a college student 50 years ago.

"I don't think it was accepted at all," said Ford, 68, looking fit and healthy with more gray in his short hair than in his congressional days.

He plans to live in Memphis three or four days a week and spend the rest of his time at his home in Florida or opening some 15 other new Serenity facilities in Chicago, Atlanta, and other cities. They are not part of the big public companies that dominate the industry.

He plans to get out of lobbying in the next year or so.

"I'm not ready to go sit on the beach every day," he said. Asked if he misses politics, he said "I'm around it every day," but he did not plan to attend the Democratic Party roast for former Mayor Willie Herenton this weekend due to previous commitments.

"It's harder to get in and out of Memphis now because of the flight cutbacks," he said.

For nearly three decades, the Ford family boasted, at the same time, an influential member of Congress (Harold Sr. or Harold Jr.), the Tennessee General Assembly (Senator John Ford and Ophelia Ford), the Memphis City Council (James, Joe, Edmund Sr. and Edmund Jr.,) and the Shelby County Commission (James and Joe). Only Ophelia Ford, Edmund Ford Jr., and Justin Ford (son of Joe Ford) are currently in politics.

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