At first glance, John Willmott “Jack” Backer, III – age 16, tall, handsome, varsity tennis player and straight-A sophomore at Sayre School in Lexington, Kentucky – appears to be a typical teenager who enjoys tennis and playing guitar, especially Southern gospel and anything by Don Williams, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings or Johnny Cash.
If all goes as he plans, Jack will earn a business degree and then attend John A. Gupton College, the same mortuary school his late grandfather attended, and become a sixth-generation funeral director at Woodfin Funeral Chapels in Murfreesboro and Smyrna, Tennessee.
“Every time I pass his portrait hanging in the hall of our funeral home, I often wonder if my great-great-great grandfather, Luther Rice Jacobs, foresaw his great-great-great grandson following in his footsteps when he established his funeral parlor 130 years ago – or if he knew generations of his family would become undertakers as he had done in 1893,” Jack wondered aloud.
But to get the whole story, let’s look back to the beginning of this outstanding youngster’s journey.
“I was 8 years old when I experienced death for the first time. Then, within a year or two, several of my favorite people died,” he remembered. “My dad’s best friend had a horse farm out in the country. Our phone rang. There had been an accident. I remember my mother leaving in a big hurry. It was pouring rain. As I was to learn later, when my mom arrived at the farm, she saw my dad, our friend Stuart, and then the coroner’s van.”
Jack’s godparent, Christine, had been killed in a horseback riding accident.
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 34
Articles Relating to Issue 34
Stevens Mortuary occupies the historic Cedar Grove estate nestled in north Knoxville, Tennessee. When one arrives at the mortuary, surrounded by flowering dogwood trees, the stately antebellum era house, with wide, inviting porches, is reminiscent of a simpler time…
Kenneth W. Poe
First generation funeral directors are fearless. With either none or very little familial connection to a funeral home, stories vary widely as to what initial interest or curiosity eventually evolved into a career. Dinner disruptions, missed family gatherings, working…
Issue 34 Available Now!
Join us as we wrap up another year, and while deliveries of everything around the world are apparently delayed off the coast of San Diego, we’re bringing you best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a loaded December issue sure to satisfy. At 68, and proving…