HAMLET — Rockingham-based Legacy Funeral Home and Cremation Services is planning to expand with a new location in Hamlet.
During a planning and zoning board meeting last week, Leonetta Wiley presented a petition to rezone a parcel she owns located at 703 King St. to allow for the expansion.
The board voted unanimously in her favor of her petition and its final consideration will be at the next meeting of the Hamlet City Council at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 in the council chambers.
Caring for the dead is not only a job for David Harrington, who owns Legacy in Rockingham and another funeral home in south Georgia. He considers it a ministry.
“I’m also a preacher,” he said. “And all this, it’s not about money. It’s about not taking advantage of people during a time of grief. Just because someone’s husband had a $20,000 life insurance policy, it doesn’t mean that’s what we’re going to charge. We actually work with families and help them to get what they need instead of pushing them to add this or that on.”
Harrington also said he has had instances when families felt they could not afford burial and funeral services, and that he works with people no matter what their finances are like.
Wiley said the planning board’s approval was a victory.
“It’s a victory for us and a victory for the people of Hamlet,” she said. “This will make a wonderful addition to the city.”
Harrington agreed. He brings more than 30 years of experience in the funeral home business to Hamlet.
“When I first started working in this job, I was 11 years old,” he said. “We even had funerals when I was little for our pets. My first job at Nelson’s Funeral Home was doing what I do here — wash cars, make sure the grounds look good out front. And I’ll never forget, when I got my license and got my first dead call from the person’s wife, I actually went by myself to the hospital. The nurses helped me get the person onto the gurney. And there was sincerity and I just told myself, ‘I can do this.’”
Harrington said some places are known for being black funeral homes or white funeral homes, but that is not the way he was raised and it is not the way he does business.
“I have a staff with black, white, Hispanic,” he said. “I want people to see. If you’re dying and you need blood, you don’t care what race that blood is coming from. You want to live.”
Harrington said his funeral home is a home, and should feel like home when people come in. The employees are all Christians of several races, and they are the family. He said the services Legacy provides do not end after the burial, because the families of departed loved ones don’t stop grieving then.
“We provide counseling to help people deal with their grief,” he said. “Maybe they have a few good days, then a bad day hits and they can come back here and know there’s someone they can talk to.”
Harrington said he is fully staffed now, with most of the employees coming from other funeral homes. But he remembers the opportunity he was given as a child and also employs people with no prior experience.
“Their drive and their determination to succeed will get them where they need to be,” he said. “One thing about working here, to work here you must be a person of good character. What happens in here stays in here. We don’t think it’s the whole neighborhood’s business to know whether somebody didn’t have insurance.”
He said he comes from blessed ground, from a family of undertakers who taught him how to minister to survivors.
“I said from the time I was young that I was going to be a preacher and an undertaker,” Harrington said. “And that’s who I became. God blessed me with a double dose.”
Harrington, who has battled cancer in the past, said that his doctors are saying the disease is coming back — but he is calm about it, at peace with it and said his faith in God remains unshaken.
“Death does happen, but so can healing,” he said. “I believe our God can heal, and I believe he has a plan even when there is not healing.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.