When The Rev. Donald Jordan Sr. died in January, his family’s more than 60-year involvement in Middletown was about to become a thing of the past.
That’s because the property owner of where Hall-Jordan & Pretty Memorial Chapel once sat on South Main Street sold it without giving the family the opportunity to purchase it, according to owner Donald Jordan Jr.
Realizing he had to act quickly to preserve his father’s legacy, he opened Donald Jordan Memorial Chapel at 4083 Pleasant Ave. in Hamilton in March and then a location at 3520 Roosevelt Blvd. in Middletown last week.
“It actually worked out better because we couldn’t grow the business where we were,” Jordan Jr. said. “This location gives us more opportunity to expand the business.”
Expand is exactly what the business continues to do, having purchased Emmanuel Baptist Church on Young Street in Middletown two months ago. That building is set to be renovated for memorial chapel use with a planned opening in early 2018.
Jordan Jr. said he wants to offer the location as “a community gathering center.”
“I want to restore the history of the church,” he said. “Different functions going on (where) they need a place to meet … give (us) an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, you can use our building for your church services on Sunday,’ because we don’t typically have funerals on Sunday mornings.”
The Roosevelt Boulevard location will be used mainly for funeral arrangements, meetings and small viewings.
Jordan Sr. started the business in 1953 out of his parents’ Ninth Avenue home, making it one of two African American-owned funeral homes in the city at the time, according to the business’ funeral director, Al Milton. The South Main Street location opened in the late 1950s
Jordan Jr., who had worked in the business during several other careers, including pilot, truck driver and police officer, said continuing his father’s business is “an awesome task” and one he doesn’t take lightly.
“I’ve come across so many people my dad has helped over the years,” he said. “Whether it was giving them a job, helping them out with some money, doing a free funeral for them. He built a tradition in the funeral service to where the funeral director is more of your friend and counselor rather than the businessman.”
Those who have lost a loved one often find it an expensive task to plan a funeral, Jordan Jr. said.
“Not everyone has the resources or the insurance … my dad, in the 60-plus years that he did it, never once turned a family away because they couldn’t afford it,” he said. “Never once. He always would find a way to work within their means and I operate the same way.”
Milton said the Jordan funeral home legacy would not have continued in Middletown and Hamilton, where a location opened in 1959, if it wasn’t for Jordan Jr., who is licensed as a funeral director in three different states.
“He’s a reflection of his dad,” Milton said. “His dad gave so much to the community and that’s what Junior’s trying to do.”