This week, I’ve reflected how it’s been seven years since my grandfather’s passing, August 17, 2009. Perhaps you wonder how a funeral director views death of their loved ones. It’s a natural question. At times, I can’t believe it; my mind is filled with happy memories and I can almost hear his voice at times, especially when I’m deep in thought at work.
Seems like yesterday we worked side-by-side. He abandoned retirement, and I returned from graduate studies to continue our family’s business when my father became ill. Learning from Raymond was graduate study. As a multiple award-winning Member Emeritus of the Academy of Preferred Funeral Service Practice, Raymond was also a member of the Fighting Texas Aggie Class of ’53, two equally prized titles.
Continuing to check on the progress of our new building, I find myself, this week especially, wondering what he’d say as the old building falls, and “my” new building stands I hope he’d be proud, and feel like he’d passed the torch. He was a 56-year member of A&M United Methodist Church. I remember every Sunday morning that Chelsea and I worship locally. His imprint and example is permanent on all of our lives that I do to lead and guide for our future.
Raymond was sometimes cautious about progress, but it’s because he was a good steward of our funds, just like he was with other people’s. I always respected that about him. I’ve saved his original business sign and keep it as a symbol of everything good about our history. But, as Chelsea, Lorene and I agreed on long ago, we had to expand to serve you better. We’ve been good stewards and proud of our new home.
When you visit our new building, you’ll see we have a beautiful area dedicated to our founders. Raymond’s portrait is there, and his legacy lives on, with love, because he surrounded us with love, compassion, and a spirit of service to our fellow neighbors and to our community. I have a few fun stories to tell on him, though.
Just like Raymond, whenever the Aggies are playing any sport, anywhere, this usually calm man morphs into a sort-of loud Aggie fan; just ask Chelsea. I come by it naturally, as my grandfather traveled to many bowl games around the country whenever the Aggies reached that playoff level. Raymond went everywhere ‘his’ team did. Many people knew he had season tickets to virtually every Aggie sport, but not many people know that he provided ambulance service on Kyle Field for many years at no charge. He was quiet about his community contributions.
Raymond was a quiet man, but one with a good sense of humor at times. He loved family more than anything, and then Texas A&M came in a close second, followed by his friends, and sports, in that order, most of the time.
On a professional level, Raymond achieved all the highest levels and realms in the funeral home and crematory profession. He was awarded outstanding Funeral Director of the Year by the Southeast Texas Funeral Directors Association. Plaques and honors were nice to have, but what meant the most to him was when people would return to us to help them with services for another family member or longtime friend saying, “All we know to do is to call you, and you will take it from here.” And he did.
That’s what my father learned from him, and what I learned from both of them. Do what you say you’re going to do, and always remember that people will only take away from you the memories of how you made them feel as you conduct yourself professionally. I think, at least from my point of view, that each of us in all these generations bears a slightly heavier mantle than those employed within our profession in a corporate setting.
Yes, we have a reputation to uphold, and we all provide services in town, and there’s always an excellent choice for anyone. There’s plenty of room in town for all of us who are here, independents, family-owned, and corporate subsidiaries alike. Everyone adds something special to their work.
I only know that for me, my family name and reputation is on the line every time I receive a phone call or greet a friend who walks into our funeral center on College Avenue. It’s no burden at all, but I am constantly aware of wanting to make my family proud. The name is on my building, and it’s on my driver’s license. The Callaway-Jones family has always expected each one of us to maintain, if not raise, a good reputation, same as any other family does.
Raymond’s memory was sharp and he could remember so many things years after the fact, including the deceased’s name family names and the cemetery names. Remember, back then, there were more of the smaller cemeteries and family places within cemeteries, before Bryan-College Station experienced massive growth in the 1970s, thanks to Gen. J. Earl Rudder and Sen. W. T. Moore, Sr. teaming up to expand the horizons of Texas A&M. Our community growth soon followed.
Thinking back, his super memory is probably how he survived classwork in the rough BBA in Accounting program he graduated from at A&M, while also being in the Corps of Cadets. Many of you remember well the days of “Ol’ Army” where your life and schedule belonged to your commanding officer and you’d best be high and behind whatever the orders of the day were. Yes, Raymond probably had pretty good training for to live on just a few hours’ sleep a night as far back as then.
I cherished the time we’d ride across town together on a call. He did have some very amusing rituals that he kept as carefully as he kept the books. Every Friday at lunch, you could find him at Luby’s on Texas Avenue.
Not every lesson he taught was always the best way to do things. For example, Raymond never would use a car blinker in the turn lane because he said it would wear out! He was joking but he said seriously, “I’m in the turn lane, so people know I’m turning. Who needs a blinker?” Now, if I were to try that today, I don’t think our local police officers would appreciate my using the excuse that my grandfather taught me that. I still smile to think about it, though.
One of his very few luxuries was having a car with a sunroof. Only problem was, he would never open it. Of course, I was in my 20s and I wanted to ride with the sunroof open, but no-go. He said, “Once you open the sunroof, there’s always a chance that it won’t re-seal properly and rain might get in and leak through.” Yes, he was a little set in his ways but those were more charming than frustrating. Still, as I’m driving around in 105°F heat these “balmy” August afternoons, I’ve found myself saying, “No chance of water leaking through the sunroof today!” Don’t we wish?
He would regale me with what things were like for the Aggie Class of ’53 (Whoop!) and many of his classmates remained his lifelong friends here because especially in those days, anyone who could graduate and live here and build a family here were considered already halfway to Heaven. And so it goes.
I was especially touched by a comment left on last week’s blog by a dear lady, Dorothy Wolff. She wrote “Cody, I know your Dad, Grandfather, Great Grandfather and Grandmother Jones would be so proud of you and your Mom for making their dream come true….” That sentiment touched my heart.
It certainly won’t be without emotion when the first brick wall on the old building is struck—soon enough—but I do hope that Raymond will have a very good view of what Lorene, Chelsea and I, and our entire Callaway-Jones team are doing that day. We’re not tearing down the walls as much as we are—just like Texas A&M did in the 1970s when opening its doors to women and non-reg students—we’re building for the future. Seven years have passed in the blink of an eye. How will you be remembered?
Cody D. Jones ‘02
Owner and Community Member.