As a little girl. Hildreth Deck Eggleston helped her Papa get the horses into harness so they could pull the funeral hearse. She also would set up the black drapes, chairs and the rest of the funeral paraphernalia in the deceased person’s home before the service began.
“There wasn’t anyone else to help Papa,” smiled Mrs. Eggleston. “And it’s all I’ve ever known.”
Mrs. Eggleston, who was 75 on March 12, has held her embalmer’s license for 55 years. Her father, J.F. Deck, started the Deck Funeral Home on East Wooster Street in Bowling Green 66 years ago. Her daughter, Mercene Hanneman, and Mrs. Hanneman’s sons Kris and Kraig, and daughter Kathy, also are funeral directors associated with the funeral home. “The really dedicated funeral homes are the family businesses,” said Mrs. Eggleston. “Used to be when someone died, you practically lived with his family for two or three days. That’s all you could think about.” You never get used to death, not even after 55 years of service to grieving families and friends. “I’m the worst mourner,” said Mrs. Eggleston. “I know how hurt you are inside when you lose someone. I live every one,” she said through tears. Mrs. Eggleston wiped her eyes dry and jokingly called herself an “old-time undertaker.” The only woman in her class at Dr. Buck’s Mortuary School in Columbus , Mrs. Eggleston said she was often embarrassed by her instructor’s references to the anatomy. She got over that, however, and graduated second in her class.
“I entered a man’s world at a time when it was very unusual for a woman to become a licensed embalmer,” said Mrs. Eggleston. Her license reads “he, his, him.” “In those days, there wasn’t any ‘hers,’ smiled Mrs. Eggleston, “just ‘his’. They’ve always accepted me, though. Everyone’s been very kind.”
According to Kris, Mrs. Eggleston knows everybody. In the last couple of years, her health has kept her from working as much as she would like, but Mrs. Eggleston still greets everybody who comes to her funeral home personally. “People stop to see Grandma even before they go into the chapel,” Kris said proudly. “She has always gone out of her way to help people, and they remember her for it.”
“My life is one of helping people,” said Mrs. Eggleston as her eyes misted over. “I like to be here. It’s the people I serve that count to me.”