David Gentry spends every day dealing with death.
As the owner and director of Gentry Family Funeral Services, he spends his days comforting the families of a deceased loved one and trying to make their day of grief as easy as possible.
Although he deals with such a dark subject every day, he manages to look at life positively and takes advantage of the time he gets to spend with his family.
Gentry was born and raised in Yadkin County. He was raised with his older sister and brother on a four acre tobacco farm where he spent a good portion of his childhood helping his family prime.
Gentry’s father also co-owned Williams and Gentry Grocery and Meat Processing, where he also spent his free time and summers working and helping his father.
“In high school the tobacco industry was starting to slow down and so I went to work at the courthouse for a summer,” Gentry said. “I was with Sonny Hobbs and we’d go in at 4 a.m. and get off at noon. That job allowed me to meet a lot of people. Working at the store allowed me to meet a lot of people as well.”
When Gentry wasn’t working he was on the baseball field playing on the football field marching with the high school marching band.
His life took a turn the summer following his junior year of high school. Gentry decided that he didn’t want to work cleaning the courthouse anymore nor did he want to spend the summer priming tobacco so he reached out to his cousin, Junior Gentry, who was the owner of Mackie Gentry Funeral Home to see if he could use some help over the summer.
“He told me that he had several people going on vacation so he could use somebody. So the summer of my junior year I worked at Mackie Gentry and I enjoyed it,” Gentry said. “He was a great guy to work with and he has so many years of experience in funeral service.”
That summer Gentry was a jack of all trades as he mowed the grass, washed vehicles, assisted in the preparation room and did any task that was assigned to him.
He finished up the summer and as he went into his senior year of high school he decided that he was going to graduate and go on to Appalachian State University to follow in his brother’s footsteps as an accountant.
After graduation summer rolled around once again and Gentry returned to the funeral home to work once more and as the summer days passed on he thought more and more about changing his path to a permanent career in funeral services.
“I worked at the funeral home again the summer after my senior year and the more I worked there the more I got to thinking that this is what I wanted to do,” Gentry said. “I enjoyed the PR as far as getting to talk to people. As far as the technical aspect with the preparation room, I enjoyed that too; I enjoyed that challenge.”
So in July that year he applied to the embalming school in Nashville, TN where his cousin had attended in the 1940s. He was accepted in August and went away for a year to get his diploma in funeral service. After that he took the national board and a state law exam before he was finally able to return home to Yadkin to fulfill a one year apprenticeship with his cousin.
“I was able to come back home at that point and work under Junior and I was put on a regular rotation,” Gentry said. “The school is great to get you to pass the board. When you get back and you get the experience that’s what really helps for years down the road. “
Gentry continued to work at Mackie Gentry Funeral Home until Junior decided that he was ready to retire. Gentry said he was still too young and not financially stable enough to be able to buy the home and run it himself and so Junior sold it to a man out of Statesville to keep it from falling into the hands of a chain corporation.
“Junior didn’t want that and he didn’t like the business model behind that chain,” Gentry said. “So he sold it to the man out of Statesville for less money and it turns out that man sold it to a chain corporation within a year.”
Gentry said that he and two other employees were not happy with the change of ownership and decided that they were ready to go out and start their service. Gentry, Laura Vanhoy and Junior Sharp pooled their money and purchased a facility in Jonesville to start Gentry Family Funeral Services.
The trio bought an old Huff Funeral Home facility and remodeled it and enjoyed a successful business thanks to the residents of Yadkin County.
“As our business started to grow we started to really push that facility and so we decided that in order to offer a central location and be able to serve the citizens of the county better we needed to build another facility in Yadkinville,” Gentry said. “We secured the land in 1996 and it was completed in 1997.”
In 2000, Gentry’s business partners retired and he bought their shares to become the president of the company.
Gentry says that he works with juggling his work life and his family life every day.
“It’s not an 8 to 5 job, that’s for sure,” Gentry said. “It can be a tough job while raising a family. You may be getting ready to go out to a ballgame our go out to eat and then the phone rings and somebody’s mother has passed away and you have to leave your family and put someone else in first.”
Through it all Gentry has managed to balance his work and home life and has three boys that take up any free time he can find.
“I don’t have any hobbies but I would say that whenever I’m not at work then I am doing whatever the family wants to do,” Gentry said. “I live a public life and I’m dealing with people all the time at work so in my downtime I like to just sort of dedicate everything to my family and try to be a dad and stay at home.”
When it comes to going to work every day facing death and sadness, Gentry said that he tries to look at it in a positive light and dedicate himself to his customers.
“I’m as guilty as the next person that sometimes I don’t say the things I should to the people that I care about because I’m human,” Gentry said. “But my work is a constant reminder daily that something could happen so quickly and I feel like it helps me enjoy life more.
“There is a sign that wife bought for my son’s room that says life is short, make fun of it,” Gentry continued. “I think that’s the way it should be. Life is short and we should all have a good time and make fun of it.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.