Friday, June 27, 2014

Blog 184: A Tribute to my Father

By Donald W. Jones
Guest Writer

My father, Philip Henry Jones (1903-1982), was born in central Virginia, in a rural town along the James River. His mother was Native American and African and his father, according to the 1920 census, was White, Mulatto, and Puerto Rican.
In my nearly seventy years, I have not written an article dedicated entirely to my father, although I often speak fondly of him of the many memories we have. My father was complicated and often misunderstood by me, until I went to college. It was then that I stated that “my father grew up.” Actually, after my first course in psychology, I came to understand his many complexities.
Dad, pictured above sitting on the wheel of his tractor, is reaching into his pocket to retrieve his beloved Zippo lighter (guaranteed to light in any wind). The cigarette he is smoking was a “roll-your-own”, using Prince Albert can tobacco. The tractor he is sitting on is a Ford and was a great improvement from the team of mules he used while I was growing up. Dad was a man of many occupations.  His list included farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, Ferrier (horse shoeing), mason, lumberjack, and explosive expert.
Each of those occupations carries several stories that would be interesting and humorous, but too numerous to list here. Dad was small in stature but large in heart. Only 5’4” tall and weighing 135 lbs. with two rocks in his back pocket to get to the 135lbs. He would give you the shirt off his back if you wanted it (although it may have been too small for you). After laboriously raising out garden crops, our cousins from the city would come to visit and leave with the trunks of their cars full of the vegetables we (I) had planted. I asked “why?” This is where Dad instilled in me the attitude of giving and helping others. Dad said that we were blessed with enough for ourselves and there was enough to give to others.
He taught me the survival skills that would be necessary in facing the many challenges of life. We must remember that as a young man he grew up during segregation, post WWI, 1929 stock market crash, WWII, and Korean Conflict (later the Viet Nam war where I served). Being accepted as an explosive expert during the fifties was a major accomplishment for a black man. Dad taught me hard work; planning and faith would accomplish much.
There are many anecdotes that my family recall’s when “Uncle Phil’s” name is mentioned. I am a better man for what my father instilled in me.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Blog 183: Showing Appreciation for Kindness

By Vernon M. Herron

Ten years ago, our pastor preached about “kindness,” then gave the worshippers an assignment for the week. He challenged the congregation to identify “six persons, alive or deceased, who are or were the kindest persons you have ever known, and to hand-write them a note to say so with appreciation.” That experience did something for me.

In a recent speech, one who was a recipient of such letter, made reference to the same. I was able to receive a copy of that correspondence which was most dynamic in every respect. I now share the same with you and urge you to try this experiment to see if you might have a similar affect.

Sunday May 2, 2004


During the worship service today, our pastor spoke on “Kindness.” In his message, he gave the worshippers an assignment for the week. He challenged the congregation to identify six persons, alive or deceased, who are or were the kindest persons you have ever known and to hand-write them a note to say so with appreciation, if alive and to memorialize the same, if deceased. Immediately, I identified ten (not just six) kindest persons I have ever known, and you are one of the ten.
The pastor further defined “kindness not as a place but a relationship.” This definition was helpful to me as I designate you as one of the kindest persons I have ever known. Your relationship to me has been one of quality interaction. You have long shown concern and support for me in my pre and post retirement years, health status and general welfare. I have observed your Christian spirit and your supportive attitude toward your family and friends. You are concerned about others and that makes you kind.

The pastor also suggested this be a hand-written note, signifying the personal touch. A “note,” yes, this I can do but not the hand-writing aspect. My penmanship is poooooooor!, and I must depend on the computer.

One other point, I have identified you as one of the ten kindest persons I have ever known.  Now I thank you for being you. But really, the KINDEST of them all is



Vernon M. Herron

P.S. Now, may I suggest that you try this transforming experience to see what happens.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Blog 182: A Salute to the Alexander Funeral Home, Inc.


A Salute to the
Alexander Funeral Home, Inc.
of Charlotte, NC
Celebrating 100 years of Existence and Service

By Vernon M. Herron, D.M.

     Today, the Charlotte community proudly salutes a noble institution, known as The  Alexander Funeral  Home, Inc. It has been in existence since 1914, succeeding the Coles and Smith Undertakers. For 100 years, the name “Alexander” has been a symbol of history; an  institution of servant hood; and a  source for community achievements.

     Through the years, this funeral service has focused on -- the dead and those who remain.  According to Facebook, since 1914, more than 160 million people have died, and the Alexander Funeral Home has had its share of providing a comforting burial service for many with dignity.       

     Again, much history has taken place since 1914.

This  country has had 17 Presidents.
100 years ago:
The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.
Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.
Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower   !
The average US wage was 22 cents per hour.
The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME.
Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!
Instead, they attended so-called medical schools.
Sugar cost four cents a pound.
Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
There was no such thing as underarm deodorant or toothpaste.
Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering their country for any reason.
The five leading causes of death were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2, Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke
The American flag had 45 stars.
The population of Las Vegas Nevada was only 30!
There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A. !
Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years   
     For 10 decades, this Funeral Home has been a family owned, operated and maintained business. When Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay on SELF RELIANCE, that “an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man,” he must have had persons like Zech, Sr. in mind. He was the lengthened shadow of the Alexander Funeral business.

     I knew each of the former presidents and their families personally. When my father died, Zech, Sr. enrolled all of the Herron children in the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Sunday School; his beloved late wife, Louise, and my mother were neighbors and friends. Mr. Zech, Sr. was a businessman, a church man, a 33rd degree Mason, a community political power, and a Sergeant Major who served in the 3rd North Carolina Infantry in the Spanish-American War.

     His son, Zech Jr. taught me local history and politics. He identified to me the richest Afro-American female in Charlotte, NC. (Just between you and me), I have been trying to get close to her for some time, but she always keeps her distance. So the secret remains between the two of us!—(Zack, Jr. and me). Do you know when and why a secret will always remain a secret between two people? Answer: When one is dead!

     Another son, the late Fred was the first Black City Council member and the first Black elected to the NC House.

     Kelly, Sr. inspired me through organizational life known as the NAACP.

      My aunt, the late Mrs. Leila McPherson Davis, was Kelly, Jr.’s second grade teacher. She advanced him to a higher grade level because of his aptitude. Today, Kelly, Jr. is a member of the North Carolina House of Representative District 107.

     Another grandson, Alfred, is my personal friend while the late grandsons, Zech Wilbur and Andrew, were my childhood playmates.

     Not only has the Alexander family focused on the dead but it has been an institution of servanthood for those who remain. Greatness has been achieved through service. Its service has been that of education, economic development, community leadership, pride and strength.

     When Urban Renewal came to Charlotte and affected the Black community, it was the Alexander men, who along with the late Drs. J. S. Nathaniel Tross, James Wertz and others, gave leadership to a people in transition, seeking social and economic justice.

     Finally, the Alexander Funeral Home, Inc. has been a source of community achievement. Whether it was through the NAACP, a city or state government, any level of politics, a handshake, a secret order or a religious faith, the motive has always been the same – to get the job done – always striving for personal and community achievement.

     Long live the Alexander Funeral Home. If you will serve for another 100 years, we will guarantee you ourselves for your business when our Maker calls.   Check with me again before 2114 to see if we kept our word.A-men

(These 12 remarks  were written and delivered by Vernon M. Herron, D. M., on May 24, 2014 when the Alexander Funeral Home, Inc. of Charlotte, NC celebrated its 100 years of existence.)