Back in the early 1930s, when money was really hard to come by, "Uncle" Jim Caldwell, as he was known in town, devised a plan where people could afford a low cost burial policy to take care of the expense of losing a loved one. For just a few pennies a month, the burial was taken care of. He sold his first policy under the name Tri-County Burial Association in 1934.
For over 70 years, the burial association and Cox-Blevins Funeral Home have strived for the same goal, to make life a lot easier for the loved ones who will have to live with the sorrow of losing someone close without worrying about the expenses.
"It's very rewarding, being able to do something for a grieving family that they can't do themselves," said Donna Blevins, co-owner of the funeral home. "Making a tribute, making everything come out as it's supposed to be, is a great feeling. That you've done something good and decent for them, they don't forget it."
Back when Uncle Jim started on the north side of the court square in Salem, things were a lot different. He constructed the casket as well as taking care of the funeral; in most cases all within two days, because at that time embalming was not a common practice in the area. Generally, the body was prepared and brought back to the home where friends and neighbors would sit up all night until the services the next day.
Caldwell sold to Higginbotham Funeral Home in the 1930s. In those days, a nice suit was $12.50, and the casket was $65. Most of the stone markers were handmade by a relative or friend of the family. Rent for the building was $10 a month, 17 yards of satin (to line the casket) was $4.25, and the light bill was $7.41. The total cost for a complete funeral was just $100.
Higginbotham sold the funeral home in the 1940s to Leland Carter, who operated it until 1986 when it sold to Madden Enterprises. In 1995, Clell and Donna Cox purchased the business, and in 1999, Powell and Donna Blevins became partners in the total operation of Cox Funeral Services, Inc. and Cox-Blevins Funeral Home.
The burial association, which is now called the Leland Carter Burial Association, is still helping families today, just as they did in 1935. The present building at 140 North Pickren Street was constructed around 1955 by Leland Carter, and at that time was an unusual structure to say the least, with the roof extending almost to the ground and the extensive use of stained glass. It is still one of the most modern funeral homes in the area.
"It was designed by Leland Carter, the funeral director who built it and was here for many years. It was built in the early 50s and it is just a very unique structure. The same design that this building has was also used when Carter built the chapel for Carter Funeral Home in West Plains, Mo.," said Blevins.
Most of the funerals conducted today at Cox-Blevins Funeral Home are for folks the Coxes and the Blevinses have known for a very long time. The Coxes have lived in the area for many years and Powell Blevins was born and raised in the Salem area.
Many people have been associated with the funeral home through the years and have helped to shape the business into the fine operation that it is today. Bartus Estes, Dick and Anita Harris, W.A. and Vanita Harris, Regina Welch, Van Brown, Olan and Jackie Gooch, Garry Williams and Nathan Dixon.
Today, the funeral home also sells monuments, prepaid funeral plans and insurance, as well as maintaining the Leland Carter Burial Association.
"We can offer a family everything they need. We do funerals, cremations and memorials; we sell monuments, insurance and pre-arrangements, where people can pay a lump sum or they can make payments, as little as $25 a month or as much as they would like. We do sell insurance, depending on what their specific needs are and what their health dictates," said Blevins.
On site is their in-house flower shop, Precious Memories. "It's nice that during a visitation, clients and visitors can select their flowers, or even on a weekend when they can't go anywhere else because the other shops are closed. We stock a large variety of casket pieces, and all of our pieces are silk. Silks last longer and we also have home arrangements that people can take home with them as a permanent memory," said Blevins.
"We are a very service oriented business," said Blevins. "We give the same great service to everyone regardless of the amount of money spent. We truly do serve your family as if they were our own." For more information, visit their Web site www.areawidemarketplace.com/cox-blevins.