Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2006
By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features writer
Not much thought is often given to those who spend their time dealing with one of the most devastating times in peoples' lives.
For Lavon Kelly, funeral director with Craver's Funeral Home, it is his job to take as much pressure as he can off the family of a loved one who has passed away.
It's not a job just anyone can handle. It takes someone special to deal with death on a daily basis, but Kelly has devoted much of his life to his field.
Kelly didn't just get up one day and decide to become a funeral director. It isn't something that he planned as his life work, but as things worked out, he has let it become a very big part of his life.
Kelly was born in Pensacola, Fla., in 1934 during the Great Depression when times were hard for everyone. His father was a railroad worker who moved from place to place wherever his work took him. He was originally from Pollard and when he was finally able, he moved the family back there. He married later in life and was 50 years old when Lavon Kelly was born, the fourth child of five. He had two brothers and two sisters and they grew up as most children did in the 30s and 40s. Times were not easy but there were lots of chores around the home to keep them busy. His father was away a lot and was not able to spend a lot of time with the children, so therefore they depended on each other.
Kelly explained that while he was growing up, Brewton had a Class D baseball team. They played on a semi-professional basis with other towns and cities across south Alabama and a good ballgame was just what he liked.
During these years, Kelly attended Pollard School, then McCall, and finally graduated from Flomaton High School in 1952. He was friends with Don White from Pollard and began working with him helping at the funeral home. Marshall Craver owned the business at the time.
When he graduated from high school, Kelly decided to go to Mobile to take a Civil Service test, but before he got the results back he went to Vanity Fair in Monroeville to see about going to work there.
They told him that they had no openings, but there was someone needed at the post office. He got the job and worked there for about a year.
During this time, Craver was trying to persuade him to go work in Pensacola at Fisher Pou Funeral Home to get some experience.
After about a year of working for the post office, Kelly decided to go to Pensacola, where he met up with his old friend, Don White. The two worked together for a while until White went to work for the police department. Kelly stayed at Fisher Pou for about 10 years from 1953 to 1963, when he decided to sell insurance - a job that lasted less than a year.
During this time he married and had three children, Belinda Hintze, Brenda Kelly and Beverly Cheniae. He and his wife later divorced and in 1969 he married Shelby Godwin Van Hoosen. He brought three girls and she brought three boys to the marriage, making them the real “Brady Bunch.”
In 1964 Kelly was hired at Craver's Funeral Home, and he has been there ever since. When he began working for Craver's, the business was located on Court Street across from the city park, and at one time had been J.W. Adkisson Funeral Home. Mr. Adkisson also was very involved with Luttrell Hardware and the caskets were stored upstairs in the hardware building.
Today the business consists of both Craver's Funeral Home and Flomaton Funeral Home. It was in the controlling hands of Mason, Kelly, Williams and Craver until 1992 when Williams split off to open their own business, leaving Kelly and Van Hoosen in charge.
Kelly lives within sight of the business on Foshee Road. At the time he began working there he had to run a phone line from his house to the business - and as he had to pay for the line, he said he wanted to be very close.
These days, Kelly has had to turn many of the jobs over to other workers, but he still puts in long days at the office. His wife, Shelby, runs the adjoining flower shop and his daughter, Brenda, works with him.
Kelly said he looks forward to spending time with his great grandson, Austin, and that is about all the free time he has.