Jim McLaurin is a Clayton native and second generation funeral director. His father, Jimmy, started McLaurin Funeral Home in 1962 in Clayton. The company moved from Main street to its current location on Business U.S. 70 in 1974.
Q: What made you choose to work in the funeral business, Mr. McLaurin?
I grew up in the business and saw the care that my father provided. I felt like I always wanted to continue the family business. I enjoy helping people in their time of need. It’s a very rewarding job.
Q: Has the business changed a lot over the years?
The funeral business has changed a lot over the last 25 years. We’re in the age of computers now. Selections of caskets are now done on big monitors versus going into the selection room. It allows the family a little bit easier arrangement conference. For some families it’s been a very hard selection to make, walking into a room of caskets. It’s more convenient now.
With cremation being on the rise there is a lot more that can be done now with memorial services. We can do them in different locations. We’ve had services on country farms and even some on golf courses. The location is chosen based on what was important to the deceased.
Q: Why do you think cremation is on the rise? Is it the cost?
There is a little bit of cost difference, but there are several reasons. One is that the general public is getting more educated on what cremation really is and what it is about. People realized that different religions are accepting cremations now where in years past they didn’t. Most of your religions accept cremation now.
Q: What do you mean when you say “the public is getting more educated”?
There is a better understanding on what is involved with cremation than there was years ago. There are full service cremations that are just like a regular services only after the service the body is taken to the crematory, rather than everyone heading to the cemetery.
Q: How do you keep up with the changing beliefs of different faiths?
We just have to keep educating ourselves. We have continuing education classes and do personal research. We have a mandatory five hours of continuing education classes annually, but of course we strive to exceed that. Learning about the different customs of different faiths is interesting. You have to stay up with the changes to meet the demands of the public.
Q: What kind of training is required to become a funeral service director, and what is the correct terminology?
“Funeral service licensee” is the correct title. A funeral service licensee is someone who is able to embalm and to conduct funerals. It’s a combination degree. You can get a funeral director license or an embalmer license, but the combination of the degrees is the most common. The program is two years and is available in North Carolina through technical and community colleges. I went to Fayetteville Community College for my certification. Different schools throughout the country offer the curriculum.
Q: I have heard of funeral homes offering QR codes on tombstones that people can scan to learn more about the deceased while in cemeteries. Do you all offer some of those programs?
I’m not familiar with the QR codes on tombstones, but I have heard of people putting web addresses on their headstones. I can see that it could be beneficial in later years for people wanting to find out about a families’ history, but I’m a little more old school myself. I guess it has its pros and its cons.
Q: What are some of the more unusual requests that you’ve had for funerals?
We always want to strive to meet the families’ needs no matter what the situation may call for. Having a saddle on a casket may seem really odd to someone, but if the person rode everyday and had a love of horses, that may be a very fitting tribute to incorporate into the service. I don’t consider any of it strange. In my mind we want to do whatever we can to help a family in their time of need.
Q: Do you find that there is a high turnover in the funeral home industry?
There is a somewhat of a high turnover. A lot of people get into this business without realizing the demands on your family. It’s a 24 hour a day 365 day a year job. It isn’t a job you can come home and forget about until the next morning. It’s constantly with you.
Q: In older days, didn’t funeral directors typically live above the funeral home because of the long hours of the job?
Yes. My daddy lived upstairs. We all did. Our assistant manager Terry lives upstairs here. There’s an apartment up there.
Q: What is the protocol for when a person passes away?
That’s a really hard question to answer because there are so many different situations out there. It depends on whether it is a hospice or hospital situation; if it’s a trauma case. There is no specific point in time where we come into the picture. We are typically notified quickly after the time of death so we can begin scheduling conferences with the family and help them decide what they want to do. The family always chooses the funeral home based on the services they offer and the value of the services they receive.
Q: Can you bury people at any cemetery a family chooses?
Yes. We own this one and Knollwood between Clayton and Smithfield. We also have a crematorium on site. We were the first on site crematorium in Johnston County.
Q: What are the aspects of your job that you don’t enjoy?
The hours get long and can be hard, but I don’t regret any of it. I really enjoy helping people in their time of need. There is red tape, but that’s there in any career.
Q: You and your wife Marian have five children. Is this a career that you hope is continued in your family by your children?
That is a decision that they’ll have to make. I want them to be happy in life and if this is what they choose I’ll endorse them. If not, I’ll endorse them either way.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love spending time with my family. I love to cook any and everything. I used to play a lot of golf, but that has been put on hold since the family came along. Basically right now I want to take advantage of every spare minute to be with my family.
Correspondent Holly Lock