“It’s such an honor to be able to walk with people during their time of need,” said Todd Harra, vice president of McCrery & Harra Funeral Homes and Crematory in Wilmington, Delaware. “But I never pictured myself doing this.”
Harra has deep roots in the profession, but not in the traditional way of many multi-generational funeral directors. His great-great-great grandfather, James White, was a cabinet maker in the sleepy little town of Milford, Delaware, during the mid-19th century. White was the town’s tradesman undertaker, making custom coffins for the townsfolk when they died. His sons, Harrison and Isaac, followed him into the business. Isaac, a carpenter by trade, continued the family undertaking business until he died of Bright’s disease in 1914.
Harra said, “His obituary reads, ‘He lived and died without a known enemy.’”
Isaac’s wife, Rachel, who owned a milliner’s shop in town, sewed the coffin interiors. They had one daughter, who Isaac wouldn’t let into the business because it was no place for a woman, and so there was a lapse of several generations until his great-grandson, Richard “Rick” Harra, entered funeral service in 1978, starting at McCrery Funeral Home at the age of 19.
“After high school, I went to Elon University and got a science degree. Like many young people, I didn’t even realize funeral service was a career path,” which Harra attributes to the American attitude toward death. “I started working for my Uncle Rick part time after I graduated in 2004 because it seemed interesting, and, frankly, I needed a job.”
“I don’t think I chose this profession; I think it chose me.”
Rick bought the business from the McCrery family in 2008 and changed the name to McCrery & Harra in 2011 to celebrate the centennial of the funeral home.
“On Nov. 7, 2011, exactly 100 years since Albert J. McCrery conducted his first funeral, we had served 39,880 families,” Harra said. “That number has got to top 45,000 at this point. That’s something I’m extremely proud of, and I know my uncle is, too, having that many members of the community entrust us with their loved ones.”
The remainder of this article is reserved for subscribers only
In addition to receiving all of our quarterly magazines by mail, subscribers to Southern Calls have exclusive access to additional online articles, as well as ability to read all Southern Calls magazine articles as they come available.
Get your One Year or Two Year subscription today, or login here to continue viewing the rest of the article.
Order this issue
Southern Calls Issue 31
Articles Relating to Issue 31
Attila Bethlenfalvy stands out in a crowd of funeral directors. With his gauged ears, shaven head and bushy, peppered beard, Bethlenfalvy doesn’t look the part, and he’s not a funeral director, though he arguably knows more about funerary antiques and ephemera than…
Thomas Lynch is a man who needs no introduction. He’s well known—even famous, though he’d certainly argue that—in undertaking, poetic, and literary circles. Lynch won the American Book Award in 1998 for his breakout collection of essays, The Undertaking: Life Studies…
This is such an incredible issue! Join us as we celebrate The Profession with three amazing People, Places and Passions articles, told by our award-winning writers and brought to life with exceptional photography – you’ll read it cover to cover, again, and again!…