Article Category: People | Pillars | SC24

Rooted in Southern Tradition | Jerry Griffey

Posted Saturday, Jun 01
Written By Alice Adams

When you meet veteran funeral director Jerry Griffey, you are struck by his soft Southern drawl and the pride he takes – and has always taken – in serving as a funeral director for the families in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Although Jerry retired several years ago, it’s no surprise families still call on him to shepherd them through funeral services.

The 85-year-old Knoxville director, who will be honored for his more than half-century of service at the Tennessee Funeral Directors Association annual convention this summer, was born in Jefferson City, Tennessee. His mother died when he was 3 months old, and his grandparents stepped in to raise him … which is how he arrived in Knoxville.

Being an eager kid, Jerry – who never met a stranger – began mowing the lawn of his friend’s father’s funeral home for $10 a week.

“My friend, Fred Berry Jr., and I had a lot of fun growing up together, and his dad, Fred Berry, took me under his wing,” Griffey said. “He was a wonderful man and was very good to me.”

As a student attending Fulton High School in Knoxville, Jerry was a band captain and also enjoyed neighborhood athletics. Giving in to his entrepreneurial spirit, the youngster also formed a dance band, playing his trombone and finding regular gigs at dances for the local Episcopal Church and also at the state mental hospital.

Gentry Griffey Funeral Chapel
Gentry Griffey Funeral Chapel

As he and Fred Jr. became old enough to drive – funeral vehicles as well as ambulances – he continued to work for Mr. Berry, staying at the funeral home every third night to make removals and answer ambulance calls. In the interim, he worked funerals and was mentored by Mr. Berry in all aspects of funeral service and taking care of families.

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 24

In stock

Articles Relating to Issue 24

Waterman’s Cortege | Bradshaw & Sons Funeral Home

Waterman’s Cortege | Bradshaw & Sons Funeral Home

Around here, captaining is something passed down from generation to generation,” says Robert H. “Bob” Bradshaw Jr., owner of Bradshaw & Sons Funeral Home in Crisfield, Maryland. “I think it’s in the blood.” He pauses and adds, “Like undertaking.” Nestled in the…

Married, Mortician, Mom | Michelle Adams

Married, Mortician, Mom | Michelle Adams

Serving as a funeral director is arguably one of the most demanding career paths one could choose – or be chosen to do. While those employed by larger firms are given the option to work alternating weekends or to use livery services for nighttime removals, many family…

Other Recent Articles

Issue 42 Available Now!

Issue 42 Available Now!

Professional automobile enthusiasts rejoice, Southern Calls Issue 42 has a wonderful article about the Professional Car Society filled with page after page of great photos. Our People feature, Michelle Johnston, gives insight into what drives her career and specialty...

read more
Issue 41 Is Selling Fast

Issue 41 Is Selling Fast

Hot off the press...Southern Calls 41 - This special issue covers the Obsequies of Todd Van Beck as told by Jack Lechner and Todd Harra. Well known and respected, TVB's wishes are honored by close friends and shared with us in an intimate story with firsthand writing...

read more
Issue 39 Available Now!

Issue 39 Available Now!

Southern Calls Issue 39 brings you stories from across the country with a brilliant, young Tennessee professional navigating career changes with ease; an historic and classically beautiful California funeral home and gardens that serves the Asian and Hispanic...

read more
After Life Mortuary Services

After Life Mortuary Services

The year is 1961. The Soviet Union has just successfully put Yuri Gagarin into space—and brought him home again. The Soviets are winning the space race. President John F. Kennedy immediately begins exploring ideas to re-take the lead, settling on reaching the moon....

read more
Snyder Funeral Homes

Snyder Funeral Homes

More than 100 years ago, Ora O. Snyder worked as a horse keeper for undertaking establishments. Known as Orrie to friends and colleagues, his early exposure to funeral service consisted of accompanying the local undertaker into the family home instead of waiting...

read more

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter to periodically receive article updates, industry news, and details about new issues before they are released.

The Magazine

Never miss an issue.

Subscribers receive all of our quarterly magazines by mail, as well as all exclusive content on the website.