VHS senior takes interest in funeral business

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 25, 2010

VIDALIA — When 18-year-old Chase Smith talks about work, people look at him funny.

But he understands.

“All of my friends my age work at restaurants or a store or an auto parts place, and when they look at me, I say, ‘I work at a funeral home,’” Smith said. “When you tell people, everyone of them gives you that look like, ‘Are you joking with me?’”

Smith has a part-time job at Young’s Funeral Home, where he helps with everything from delivering flowers, working wakes and even fetching embalming chemicals when they’re needed.

Some things he can’t do because he doesn’t have a mortician’s license, but Smith said he plans to change that.

“As soon as I graduate high school, I have a cousin who lives in Dallas, and I’m going to live there and go to (mortician’s) school there,” he said.

Ending up in the funeral business wasn’t what Smith had planned when he asked one of the Young’s Funeral Home funeral directors — Craig Hawn — for a job.

Hawn trains hunting dogs, and Smith said that was what he had in mind when he asked about employment.

“He came to me a week later and asked me, ‘Do you still want a job?’” Smith said. “I said, ‘Yeah, when do you want me to come to your house,” and he said, ‘You aren’t coming to my house, I need you at the funeral home.’”

Even though it wasn’t what he expected, Smith said he was initially open to the experience.

“I said, ‘I will try anything once,’” he said.

He’s worked other jobs, but he didn’t have a passion for them, Smith said.

“I worked for an oil company and that was 10 hours a day working in the heat,” he said. “I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t love it. It was something I was considering doing for the rest of my life, but I didn’t want to wake up every morning hating my job.”

A self-described “people person,” Smith said he loves working at the funeral home because he gets to meet people from every part of the social spectrum.

“I was just fitting right in,” he said. “I have met a lot of people in the community doing it. You get to talk to a lot of people, and I was carrying on a conversation with the sheriff of Catahoula Parish, and I didn’t even know it.

“Ever since that day, I have loved the job.”

Young’s Funeral Home Operations Manager Casey Young said it isn’t typical to see a young person take an interest in the business, but that for someone who cares about people and likes to be around them, it is a perfect job.

“You are working with people in the most difficult time in their life, and trying to make those times just a little easier,” Young said. “If you love people, it is a great place to be.”

Smith is a senior at Vidalia High School.