By Richard Mundy
For Hometown News
One of her earliest memories when she was growing up and lived upstairs at Dale Woodward Funeral Home, was someone would take her to the Dairy Queen next door during a funeral, so she wouldn't be there making any noise, Tracy Woodward said.
"I remember him (her father) taking people in his office and how distraught they looked, and the crying, and when they came out they were just so much calmer," Ms. Woodward said. "You knew something good had happened in that office."
She lost her father, whom she much admired, in 1993. She is now responsible for Dale Woodward Funeral Homes. Her mother, brother, sister, brother-in-law and nephew all work here. It is truly a family business.
Ms. Woodward believes that everybody has certain gifts, "...and we're so blessed when we know what our gift is and we're able to use it."
Her father's gift was the ability to relate to people in obvious distress over having lost a loved one, and he was able to talk to them in such a way that they became calmer and more able to deal with the situation, she said.
Founded by her father and mother in 1954, Dale Woodward Funeral Home is still serving the people of the area as it has for the past 60 years, and in the same location, although the building has been remodeled extensively three times. She mentioned the current "trend" of corporations buying up funeral homes, but also implied they can never give the same kind of service that people have come to expect from them. "You're on call 24 hours a day. We don't use an answering service; a lot of people have my cell phone number," she said.
"We're so fortunate, because we have a third generation that is coming now (and involved in the business)," Ms. Woodward said. "We don't do the same jobs so we don't step on each other's toes."
The whole family has an abundant passion to want to help people. Their clients are going through rough times and need to be able to depend on and trust people at a time when they aren't functioning their best, but need to make some serious decisions. Ms. Woodward feels blessed to be in a position to be able to help them.
"Every funeral is as different as a thumbprint," she said. "There's no such thing as an 'average' funeral. I have caskets from $900 to $9,000. I believe in celebrating a person's life."
President of the Holly Hill Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Woodward and her entire family are committed to being an integral part of the community. "This community means a lot to me and the well being of this community means a lot to me," she said.
Besides the main funeral home at 167 Ridgewood Ave. in Holly Hill, they have one at 1780 Ocean Shore Blvd. in Ormond-by-the-Sea. They also provide cremation services. Ms. Woodward said when she started in the business, cremation was probably 20 percent of the service. Now it is 80 to 85 percent.
Something else they pride themselves on is pre-paid funerals. Instead of pre-paying for services with the funeral home, Ms. Woodward said, "We go through an insurance policy that the people own. When you do it through insurance you've still pre-paid the services (and locked in the prices), but you own the policy."
With an insurance policy, interest accrues and you take it with you if you move out of the area.
Another crucial service for people who move away from the area, and have bought a plot, is Woodward Funeral Homes will help them connect with a buyer.
Ms. Woodward is up to date on the assistance available to veterans and doesn't hesitate to advise a family of them. She explained most aren't aware there are things available to a veteran's spouse and children, such as "... free grave spaces in a national cemetery as well as grave liner (vault), a headstone and free opening and closing. And most veterans don't know that."
She said 10 out of 10 people are going to need her services, but Americans are not likely to talk about wills or funeral services. She does speak at churches and other gatherings to try and explain some of these things, but they are uncomfortable subjects for most people.
"Nobody wants to go to a funeral home, so we try to make it as welcome and friendly as we can," Ms. Woodward said.
To contact Woodward Funeral Homes, call (386) 253-7601 or visit dalewoodwardfuneralhomes.com.