O ur family’s funeral home was established a few years before the Civil War on February 7, 1854 by my great-great grandfather, Robert T. Smith. “R.T.” ran the funeral home by himself until his son, W. J. Smith Sr. joined the firm in 1900. In 1920 after R. T.'s death my grandfather, W. J. Smith Jr. also known as “Booker”, became a partner in the firm and it became W. J. Smith & Son Funeral Home. According to my grandfather, during the 1800’s they had a horse drawn hearse. The roads were unpaved muddy paths that had to be cleared many times. All the coffins were hand built of pine at the funeral home. The services were all day events and at times caused them to return home long after dark by oil lamps on the coach. They would always brush and take care of the horses before taking care of themselves and going to bed. “Booker’s” only daughter, Martha Smith Cecil, joined the business in 1961. After Booker’s death in 1978 Martha, with her son David Cecil Jr., ran the funeral home until I, Walter Cecil, and my brother, Doral Cecil, joined them in the business. In my grandfather’s words left to us in a manuscript he states, “Undertaker, Mortician, Funeral Director, the titles change” but some things remain unchanged - “giving sympathetic and knowledgeable help to troubled families”. There are “human feelings shared by all of us - of grief and loss, of love and help and comfort in time of bitter sorrows…may you catch glimpses of consolation which comes with the hope of a brighter tomorrow”.
Over the years our family has been very involved in the funeral profession and our community. We are members of National Funeral Directors Association, Virginia Funeral Directors Association, Independent Funeral Homes of Virginia, Tidewater Funeral Directors Association, Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, as well being involved in local civic organizations and churches. R. T. Smith was one of the founding members of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association in 1888. W. J. Smith Jr. was a charter member and past President of Virginia Funeral Directors Association, past President of Tidewater Funeral Directors Association, as well as a state appointment to Virginia Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. Martha is a past president of Tidewater Funeral Directors Association and served on the Board of Directors for Virginia Funeral Directors Association. As for Dave, Doral, and myself, we take care of the daily operations of the family business and are also very involved in our state and local associations having held many board and leadership positions over the years. Our children who work in various positions within the firm represent the sixth generation and, of course, the newest additions to our family represent our seventh generation.
From generation to generation our heritage has been past down to us. We are committed to serve and help families during and through some of the most devastating and difficult times in their lives. We will honor the lives and memories of those entrusted to our care. At times we are asked why we do what we do? It’s pretty simple, we have a heritage of caring…We care!
Walter L. Cecil