#SupportYourMort: Featuring Students from Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service and Fayetteville Technical Community College

By Leader Editor Kara Apel & Marilyn Jones Gould

Over the past year, COVID-19 has changed everything about our world, including the way every industry operates.

The pandemic has also shown us just how valuable funeral directors are to their communities — creating beautiful moments of healing amid tragedy. After seeing everything that has happened, some might wonder if this will deter younger generations from joining the profession.

Marilyn Jones Gould recently spoke with two next-generation leaders, Jae Rhodes and J.B. Rhodes IV, who said COVID-19 has made them even more determined to be a part of this industry.

The Rhodes brothers attended MKJ Marketing’s Ski Summit last month with their father, J.B. Rhodes III — the president and CEO of J.B. Rhodes Funeral Home and Cremations, Inc. in North Carolina. They noted how much they learned from the expert speakers, but they also gained a lot of knowledge from interacting with the professionals in the audience too.

“Being around seasoned funeral directors is inspiring. That’s motivation to get to where they’re at,” J.B. said.

Both of the Rhodes brothers said attending the seminar was immensely helpful, particularly hearing the latest research on acquisition strategies, because they are passionate about ensuring the long-term success of their firm.

“The funeral profession has been something that has been embedded within my family’s legacy for the past four generations. It’s one of those things where one, I want to honor my ancestors, so to speak, but also pave a way for the people succeeding my brothers, succeeding myself, succeeding my father and I,” Jae said. “We’re currently at four generations, but it will be a beautiful thing to see another four.”

Jae followed in his father’s footsteps and attended Fayetteville Technical Community College. He’s appreciative of staff member David Hall, who has served as a mentor for both himself and his father. Jae is almost done with his board exams with just one more exam to go.

“Several of my professors actually owned and operated funeral homes, so they gave me a lot of relatable and operational knowledge that I could convert over into my real-life practice,” he said.

J.B. decided to pursue education a little further from home. He’s currently attending Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service in Atlanta and is working at Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home. He credits his dean, Mark Palumbo, and faculty member Julius Moore as two of the biggest influences on his education.

“It’s good that I’m working at a funeral home and going to school because you can apply a lot of the stuff that you learn. It’s a lot of stuff that school might not teach you – it’s a lot of trial and error. There might be something that happens at the funeral home that your teacher might not tell you, but it’s something that happens,” he said.

As part of The Leader’s Mortuary School Spirit Contest, we want to hear from you! Is there a professor or faculty member who has inspired you or impacted your career? Email us at editor@funeralleader.com.

Are there next-gen leaders at your firm who would benefit from learning from industry experts? MKJ’s upcoming Sea Summit is being held in person in Naples, FL, but also through a virtual platform — allowing anyone to join and watch online.

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