Article Category: People | Pillars | SC22
Kimberly Farris-Luke

Kimberly Farris-Luke | Madame President

Posted Saturday, Dec 01
Written By Alice Adams
Southern Calls, Vol. 22, December 2018

Farris Funeral Service | Abingdon, Virginia

On a typical Saturday morning at an Abingdon, Virginia, funeral home, the sound of a little girl’s footsteps, skipping down the stairs from the second-floor apartments, interrupts the quiet of the darkened mortuary below. Experience restrains the temptation to jump to the ground floor from two stairs above.

Taking a deep breath and dashing through the seemingly mammoth, darkened parlor, the youngster reaches the front door and retrieves the newspaper from the porch, still holding her breath. With determined resolve, she turns, races back to the staircase and scampers to the second floor. Her mission accomplished, her momentary fear disappears as she delivers the morning paper to the breakfast table.

This bold feat of daring certainly was not unique to 4-year-old Kimberly Farris-Luke, who would later become not only president and owner of Farris Funeral Service but also the first woman in the 100-year history of Selected Independent Funeral Homes to serve as president of the international organization.

Growing up as the daughter and granddaughter of funeral directors, the experiences shaping her life would come from multiple generations of her family living and working together in the family funeral home. Like the children of many directors, she knew early on to play quietly and walk softly on the upstairs hardwoods when a funeral was in progress or families were visiting.

The beginnings of her eventual career were set in 1918, when her great-grandfather – D. R. “Rybe” Henderson – purchased a general store in nearby Saltville, Virginia, where coffins were among the items offered for sale.

Rybe trained as an embalmer and funeral director, and he and his wife, Minnie Barnett Henderson, served local families in their homes before establishing Henderson Funeral Home of Saltville, which is still in operation today.

Mark Farris (Kim called him “Pappy”) married Rybe and Minnie’s daughter Sally, and, in 1952, the young couple moved to Abingdon to establish a branch of the Saltville funeral home. Several years later, they purchased the Abingdon location and, in 1974, the company’s name was changed to Farris Funeral Service. 

Family Birthday Outing - Sugar Hollow Park, Bristol, Virginia - September 2018
Family Birthday Outing – Sugar Hollow Park, Bristol, Virginia – September 2018

Mark and Sally’s son David and his wife, Barbara, purchased Farris Funeral Service from his parents in 1982. Today, they share ownership with their daughter, Kimberly Farris Luke, who serves as president and is responsible for all operations of Farris  Funeral Service and Crematory. Kim’s daughter, Farris Blackson, is currently part of the fifth-generation of family involved with the firm.

“Growing up, our funeral home was a two-story house that had been converted to the funeral home. My grandparents and uncle lived in the upstairs apartment, and my parents and I lived in a tiny house on a small patch of grass behind the funeral home.” Kim remembered. “We eventually moved into the funeral home apartment and lived there until 1967.”

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