In 1919, the Eiffel Tower was the world’s tallest structure, movies were silent and the income of an average American family was a mere $1,500. One century ago, a signed armistice signaled the end of World War I, the Prohibition era was about to begin and women were still not afforded the right to vote.
While so many facets of life have ended or at least evolved, Hudson Funeral Home has abided. Remarkably, just three generations of the Hudson family have owned and operated the firm continuously for 100 years.
Hudson Funeral Home began in a small storefront on Salem Street in Apex, North Carolina.
“My grandparents, Sanders Vance Hudson Sr. and Ora Thompson Hudson, started the funeral home in the early spring of 1919. This was during the horse and buggy days. Caskets were placed on chairs for visitations held in the family home and were lowered into the grave by plow line,” said O. Thomas “Tommy” Hudson Jr., who represents the third generation.
Serving as Apex’s first postmaster, Sanders Hudson was known by everyone he quickly earned a reputation for helping people in need like so many others of his generation, Hudson gradually progressed to undertaking, which would eventually become his sole vocation.
In 1925, he opened an additional funeral home in East Durham in a building near Crabtree’s Pharmacy at the corner of Driver and Angier avenues. At the time, Durham was larger than Raleigh, mostly because of the city’s cigarette factories and cotton mills. Initially, the new firm operated as a branch of the Apex location. However, in 1929 Hudson made the move to Durham permanent with the purchase of a house at 1800 Angier Ave. The building would be utilized as both business and residence, serving as the one and only location of Hudson Funeral Home for nearly six decades. It was during this period that the firm introduced the first motorized hearse to the community.
Sanders Hudson died in 1938, leaving his wife, Ora, and son, Edwin H. Hudson Sr., to operate the business.
“My grandmother, who was one of the first licensed female funeral directors in the state of North Carolina, ran the funeral home with my Uncle Ed. She was involved in the day-to-day operations until the early ’60s, even in later years calling in from her hospital bed from home. During this time my dad, Ollie Thomas Hudson Sr., attended Gupton-Jones mortuary school in Nashville Tennessee, class of 1940 and then served in the U.S. Army as a medic during World War II. Dad was stationed at Stark General Hospital in Charleston, S.C. and would come home about every other month,” by train my father explaining that then he was deployed overseas in 1944 to complete the remainder of his Army service at a field hospital in France.
When Ollie Hudson returned in 1945, the brothers jointly managed the funeral home until the early 1950s, when Ed left to open a cabinet business.
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