McCrabb: Quiet leader deserves recognition

How to go

What: The Rev. Donald H. Jordan Sr. 60-year celebration

When: noon to 7 p.m. July 6. Noon to 4 p.m.: activities, games and food; 4 p.m.: musical; 6:30 p.m.: speaker, the Rev. Elmer Martin

Where: Barnitz Park, Middletown

Name: The Rev. Donald H. Jordan Sr.

Age: 81

Residence: Glendale

Family: Wife: Katherine Chavis Jordan; sons: Phillip, Kevin and Donald, Jr.; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild

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The Middletown Journal is committed to coverage of the local community — from schools and our local history to business and news. Each Sunday, reporter Rick McCrabb tells the story of the people, history, places and events that make Middletown unique. Have an idea for Rick? Email him at Rick.McCrabb@coxinc.com.

Donald Jordan Sr. was born to bury.

Jordan, the youngest of eight children, joked that there wasn’t enough room in his parents home on Ninth Avenue in Middletown for the entire family.

So, he said, “I had to go somewhere.”

He was 12, maybe 14 at the time. He was full of life, 100 percent mischievous little boy, like many in the neighborhood. While the others preferred to spend their free time in the park or at a friend’s house, there was only one place were Jordan wanted to be: C.L. Maxberry Funeral Home, just down the street.

He felt most comfortable in the place most people consider the most uncomfortable place. When I asked him why he liked being in the funeral home — performing janitorial services, sweeping the sidewalks, and on special occasions, riding in the “big car,” a 1940 Packard — he looked at me, managed a smile and said: “Why not?”

With that philosophy, no wonder he has become one of the city’s most successful businessman, one of its most recognized faces.

The burial business got in his blood at an early age, and it never left.

After opening a Middletown funeral home in 1953, he expanded to Hamilton in 1959 and to Cincinnati, purchasing the Lee Funeral Home in 1966, the Houston Funeral Home in 1972, the Pierce and Peoples Funeral Home in 1974, the Wrassman Funeral Home in 1976, and the Denman-Radel Funeral Home in 1988. Green Funeral Home in Hamilton was purchased in 1990, Thompson Funeral Home in Cincinnati in 1997 and Jones & Simpson Funeral Home in Covington, Ky. in 1999. His most recent acquisition was the Lavenia’s Home for Funerals and the Summer’s Funeral Home both located in Indianapolis.

The Rev. Donald H. Jordan Sr., let’s call him the “Father of Funerals,” is being recognized July 6 for his 60 years of service. The event was originally scheduled for the Hall Jordan & Pretty Memorial Chapel parking lot of South Main Street, but once it grew into a community wide celebration, it was moved to Barnitz Park.

And don’t think this party was his idea.

“He’s just like an ol’ mule,” said James Singletary, funeral assistant. “Stubborn.”

Singletary said he was determined for Jordan, whom he says he “loves like a father,” to “smell the roses when his eyes are open.”

Jordan, 81, suffered a stroke late last year. He doesn’t drive, and what bothers him the most: He can’t button his dress shirt.

A proud man, this Donald H. Jordan Sr.

He graduated from Middletown High School in 1950, then Miami University in 1954. He began in the funeral business in 1953, spent two years in the U.S. Army and then graduated from the Embalming College in Cincinnati.

He held his first funeral at New Hope Baptist Church, then held funerals for years in his parents home. Over the years, he has buried countless family and friends, and he called the funeral for his brother, Robert, “the toughest.”

Through the years, those in the business said Jordan performed numerous funerals without receiving a dime. When he heard that, he turned slowly in his office chair and said: “Not that we didn’t charge them, we just didn’t get paid. We never turned anyone away.”

He, of course, has been more than a Middletown businessman. He has embraced the community, and felt its arms wrapped around him. He has businesses spread throughout the region, but he still calls Middletown home. The Rev. Greg Tyus, a close friend, said Jordan remembered his roots, even as his successful business grew.

“Middletown has always been his heart,” Tyus said.