How Football Led to Funeral Service: Interview with Funeral Leader Dexter David


By Managing Editor Courtney Gould Miller and Editor Kara Apel

As our industry transitions through a staffing crisis, how do we prompt the next generation of leaders to want to join the funeral profession?

Dexter David’s journey provides a compelling look at how you can pursue your passions and still have a calling for funeral service. His story is a great resource to share with those in the next generation who you think would excel in our profession.

I recently caught up with Dexter at MKJ Marketing’s Mastermind event in Nashville to learn more about what inspired him to join his family in funeral service.

Dexter now works with his father, brother, and mother at Wheeler & Woodlief Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Rocky Mount, NC. The David family also owns Johnson Funeral Home & Cremation Services and Rocky Mount Memorial Park in the area.

Like many whose parents are in funeral service, Dexter started working for his family’s firm as a teenager. Although he remained involved throughout his high school and college years, he pursued his other passions too.

Throughout his life, one of Dexter’s biggest joys has been playing and coaching football. But football is more than just a sport to Dexter – it had a meaningful impact on his entire life.

“There was a strong foundation that I built through sports as a student athlete and as a coach,” he said. “In both funerals and football, it’s the small details that matter the most – the details in the preparation, the presentation, and the performance. To be successful, you have to be consistent with all three.”

In Louisiana, Dexter was a co-owner of a sports performance company that trained young athletes year-round. In his leadership role, he learned how to educate and inform people. He also worked at a men’s clothing store, which helped him gain experience in listening to customers and helping them find what they need.

“I learned there’s a purpose to it all. I learned how to relate to people, how to listen to people, and how to communicate with and make an impact on people while providing a service. It was all part of a process to get to where I’m at now,” he said.

Dexter said all of his work experience outside of the industry has shaped his ability to be successful as a funeral service professional.

However, it ended up being Dexter’s connection to football that made him realize he wanted to work in the profession full time.

“Football is family. And with football being family, there was an experience in my life when football and family came together. That’s when I realized that this is what I’m meant to do,” he said.

The David family’s passion for funeral service started with his grandfather in 1937 and has continued on with his father, Royal David.

“It is a true honor. When you are surrounded by a grieving family and you and your family are doing everything to wrap your arms around them, it’s special,” he said.

Dexter earned his Bachelor of Arts in business administration after attending Arkansas State University and Southeastern Louisiana University. He received his funeral service education degree at Fayetteville Technical Community College.

For Dexter, funeral service is much more than a profession.

“It’s definitely not a job where I collect a check and go home – it’s a ministry,” he said.

His advice for next-generation funeral professionals is simple: “Always keep your head up and always learn.” He said this is the biggest lesson he’s learned from his father.

“That’s one thing my Dad has taught us all. In his 30-plus years of service, he’s never stopped learning,” Dexter said. “Because if you stop, the world’s not going to stop. The world’s going to keep going, and you’ll get left behind. He’s always taught us to educate ourselves so that way we can educate others.”

Dexter credits MKJ Marketing’s Mastermind seminar as an important resource to make sure his family’s firm stays up to date with consumers’ quickly changing needs.

“I’ve enjoyed Mastermind – Courtney and Marilyn do such a great job explaining the strategies and the fundamentals,” he said. “Cremation, e-commerce is where our profession is moving. The power is in the pivot. The coach will teach you how to make a strong pivot, but the only way you can make a pivot is if you’re planted.”

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