In 1926 Robert Ernest and Loura Paisley Shackelford moved to Savannah, Tennessee from Giles County. They borrowed $500.00 from a local bank and on October 11th of that year purchased the undertaking business of E. P. Churchwell & Son. Not long after, R. E. placed his first advertisement in the Savannah Courier in which he stated “In offering you my services as an embalmer and funeral director I do so with a full sense of the responsibility that rests upon the mortician when called upon to render services.” The date was October 16, 1926; with that notification, R. E. and Loura opened what would eventually become five full service funeral homes, four satellite chapels, and three cemeteries, all located in West and Middle Tennessee. The first family they served, as recorded in the ledger books which still live in storage in Savannah, was that of Mr. David Newton Arnold on October 23, 1926. Since that time, five generations of the Shackelford family have dedicated themselves to their communities and to their profession.
Over the last several years we as a family came to realize the future of the Shackelford firms depended upon our finding a partner who could help ensure the continuation of these businesses. We had been approached by different companies but honestly, none seemed to be what we were looking for—a company whose business philosophy would allow us to continue serving our communities as we have . . . a company that would care for our employees the way we care for them . . . a company that wouldn’t force us into a mold where we did not fit. But things were different when we sat down with the representatives of Park Lawn, a company that has been in operation since 1892, and the more we spoke with them, and the more we learned about them, the more it felt as though things were finally right. These were the people who would allow us to continue focusing on the families we serve and the employees who make that possible, with very little to no disruption. These were the people for whom we had been searching.
It was an almost year-long process that began on September 1, 2021. It was a time filled with research and discussions, a lot of prayer and anxiety, and some very hard decisions, but today we believe we have chosen a partner that reflects our philosophy of personal service and dedication, a company we firmly believe will continue to care for those suffering from loss and those serving them in their time of grief while protecting the history of a business that has been family owned and operated for 96 years.
So, what does this transition mean for the families we have served and will continue to serve? Let me begin by saying the family members presently working in the businesses will continue to work in the businesses. The employees who have assisted you during times of loss and grief will continue to be there for you. For those of you who have wisely decided to prearrange your services, your funds are safe and will continue to be available at the time of need. Preneed funds invested in insurance will remain so, continuing to increase in value. Those funds invested in trusts will continue to be governed by the laws of the State of Tennessee and audited on an annual basis, just as they are now. In other words, very little will change. We will still be Shackelford Funeral Directors.
This partnership will allow us to continue the Shackelford tradition of service for generations to come. It will allow the family members and managers to focus more on those who call upon us and less on the administrative duties required in operating a business. It will allow us to continue being who we are long after those of us currently serving as the caretakers and decision makers for the businesses are gone.
We want you to know this is not the end of an era or even a new beginning. This is simply the next chapter . . . the next chapter in a story that’s been 96 years in the making . . . one we hope we’ll still be writing 96 years from today.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.