Cole Centennial Part III: 100 Years of Compassion and Service

The death of a family member or friend can be a difficult time. And no industry is called on more to address the emotional needs of customers in times of stress than the funeral home business. There are dozens of funeral homes in Detroit, some that are household names and others that are not, but the professionals who populate this industry would not be here if they were not devoted to caring for people in their time of need.

The James H. Cole Home for Funerals is arguably the most recognized name in the death care business in Detroit, having served the community for 100 years. The family business has prided itself on providing great customer service to its clients ever since James H. Cole Sr. (1894-1970) founded it in the Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit in 1919.

“I don’t know why my grandfather went into the funeral profession, but I know he enjoyed working with people,” said Karla M. Cole-Green, the president of the James H. Cole Home for Funerals. “He was a people person and liked spending time with them. So, naturally, this type of profession would come to him, where he could help others.”

Customer service is an essential discipline in the funeral home industry, because funeral home operators meet customers at such a trying time in their lives. Appearance, demeanor, and body language all play a part in the service experience and how comfortable families feel with them. The James H. Cole Home for Funerals checks the box in each of those categories, which is why Detroit have entrusted them with their family members.

“There’s that generational element to the funeral business, too,” said Kymberly Cole-Crafton, James H. Cole Jr’s daughter. “We have buried generations of people and families. Family members feel comfortable with one funeral home and they’ll continue that, in regard to trusting us with the burial of their loved one.”

The James H. Cole Home for Funerals has been a fixture in the neighborhood where its flagship funeral home is located. They first moved to the West Grand Boulevard location in 1962, just a couple of years after Berry Gordy Jr. and Motown Records did, creating a landmark for residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.

LaVoyd Parker’s grandmother, Annie Williams, and mother, Elizabeth Parker, owned a home on Clairmount between 14thand LaSalle. It was located just a few minutes from the James H. Cole Home for Funerals’ West Grand Boulevard location and when Parker had to bury his grandmother, mother, and brother Lesley Parker, he knew exactly who to go to.

“Our family was in the neighborhood and most black families I knew of utilized Cole Funeral Home during that time,” said Parker. “We were more familiar with them through word of mouth, because people said their services was good and they didn’t have the problems that we see with funeral homes today.”

LaVoyd Parker had his grandmother, and mother, and brother all interred by the James H. Cole Home for Funerals.

Jacqueline Snodgrass buried her husband James Snodgrass in 2016 through the James H. Cole Home for Funerals and also lived in the vicinity on Monterey near Linwood and Davison. She remembers encountering Karla Cole-Green and her two sons Antonio and Brice Green, who are Funeral Directors.

“They were professional and caring people,” she said. “They were committed and compassionate in terms of their service to the bereaved families.”

Not only has the James H. Cole Home for Funerals serviced everyday people in Detroit, but they have also interred some prominent Detroiters over the last 100 years, including Temptations member Paul Williams, Esther Gordy-Edwards, and Charles H. Wright, among others.

“Everyone is important to us,” said Karla M. Cole-Green. “We’ve always taken care of our own and their families, looked out for people, try and give them a fair price, and good service. That’s just been what we’ve done through the years.”

To mark its centennial, the James H. Cole Home for Funerals will have several events throughout the year, including a Legacy Breakfast at the Northwest Activities Center April 18, a family festival July 21 at the West Grand Boulevard location, and a gala at the Detroit Roostertail September 14.
Part I
Part II
Part IV

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