Flowers were not only part of Chevis Davis Chitwood Kyte’s daily routine—hand-painted on dishware for her employer, Southern Potteries—but they made a significant statement at her last public remembrance.
After her passing on November 15, 1942, the Johnson City Press ran her obituary in preparation for her funeral. Unlike any such obituaries I’ve known from life up north, this Tennessee notice included the name of every single person involved in the program. That, for those of you who have never seen such a custom published in a southern newspaper, included the following count:
- Six active pallbearers
- Twenty eight honorary pallbearers
- Forty three flower bearers
For a northerner unfamiliar with any such custom, reading that list seemed overwhelming to me. I felt like the entire town had come together to bid Chevis a final goodbye. It made me wonder what was so special as to merit such attention for a funeral.
Then I realized that, perhaps, this was a regional tradition I was unfamiliar with. I’ve since seen other such mentions in Tennessee obituaries—though, admittedly, not to such lengths. A quick perusal of the terms “funeral” and “flower bearers” yielded several pages of search results online, so the tradition is apparently still alive in many circles.
Since I feel fairly safe to assume that nearly all those whose names were published on that list are no longer with us, I’ll print the announcement in its entirety so you can share my amazement. (I’m generous that way.)
If you happen to be of a similar southern persuasion, please feel free to educate me—and the rest of the readers here who might be of like northern handicap—by filling in the blanks on this custom: how does it work? Does it signify anything special? Is it just an honorary listing—or do these people take a specific role in the ceremony?
ERWIN—Nov. 16.—Mrs. Chevis Kyte, 48, died at her home on Catawba street at 3:30 Sunday morning, after she had been in declining health for the past year.Surviving are one daughter, Mrs. Emma Lee Engle; a son, H. M. Chitwood; her mother, Mrs. Cassie Davis, all of Erwin; two sisters, Mrs. Mabel Martin of Newark, N. J., and Mrs. Lummie Moore of Tela, Honduras; one brother, Jack Davis of Columbus, Ohio, and two grandchildren.Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Church of Christ, of which she was a member. The Rev. Lonnie E. Dever, church pastor, assisted by the Rev. F. Roderick Dail, will officiate. Burial will be in Evergreen cemetery.Active pallbearers: Carl McInturff, Guy Robbins, Roy Tucker, Herbert Toney, Fred D. Booth and Luther Hurd.Honorary pallbearers: Ross Jones, Bert Wilson, R. O. Bailey, Dave Hartsell, Harry Campbell, Grant Martin, C. W. Davis, J. B. Engle, Ernest Stallard, Jim Turner, Bill Tucker, J. Q. Jones, Arh Beckelheimer, R. L. Hensley, L. C. Roberts, T. H. Peters, W. W. Ryburn, Sam Brown, S. B. Stallard, O. L. Harvey, M. P. Blankenship, Charles H. Ervin, E. E. Clouse, Claude Jones, Will Burnett, W. W. Erwin, R. T. Bailey, Claude Gouge.Flower bearers: Mesdames Fannie Fox, Pauline Morgan, Dolly Six, George Maddox, Charles Hicks, Ola Swingle, Florence Updike, George Dishman, C. W. Davis, Ross Jones, R. O. Bailey, Dave Hartsell, W. H. Allen, Guy Fritz, Harry Campbell, Grant Martin, Ernest Stallard, Jim Turner, John Suggs, J. B. Engle, W. R. Cox, O. L. Harvey, Guy Robbins, Carl McInturff, Arch Beckelheimer, Sam Brown, Ed Clouse, Annie Tinker, Claude Jones, B. W. Head, J. C. Rule, L. C. Roberts, Lee Johnson, Roberta Keesecker, Nannie Ray, W. M. Erwin, W. W. Ryburn, Cassie Smith, T. H. Peters, Claude Gouge, Sara K. Gentry and Misses Maude Tucker and Mary Johnson.