A Lincoln County funeral director was recently named “Professional of the Year” for 2013.
The Funeral Directors and Morticians Association of North Carolina, Inc., handed out the annual award in a special ceremony last month in Wilmington.
Mary Frances White, owner of Ebony and White’s Funeral Service, Inc., in Lincolnton, was shocked to learn in April that she had been chosen for the honor.
However, she was more stunned to see her entire family at the once-in-a-lifetime event.
White said they conspired to surprise her for the occasion — a moment that brought her to tears.
Her daughter LaDonna and long-time friend Tryphina Wiseman addressed the crowd and spoke words of praise about the Lincoln County native and West Lincoln High School graduate.
“I’m truly happy to stand with Frances and share this joyous occasion,” Wiseman said in her speech. “Since 1986, I have gained a friend that I will always cherish.”
LaDonna called her mother an “avid” community and church leader whom God calls “His own.”
White said since the age of 12, when she lost a brother and sister in a vehicle crash, she has been curious about death, embalming and the entire funeral process. She also holds a desire to help others.
Thus, the funeral business quickly became her calling, something her grandmother confirmed to her, she said.
Family and friends told her she had a “knack” for the field, and that through her work, could lighten others’ burdens.
White became manager of Ebony’s Funeral Service in the early 1980s after acquiring her Funeral Director’s License, and in 1987, purchased the facility.
She later gained her Associate’s Degree in Funeral Service from Gupton-Jones Mortuary College in Atlanta.
For at least the last 25 years, her staff has been loyal to stay with her, she said.
Some may even call the Lincolnton business a family affair since White’s brother Kenneth and granddaughter Tionna have also carried out duties at the funeral home over the years.
“We have a very good relationship,” she said.
Because of White’s considerable community involvement, her recent prestigious award is only one of many accolades she has received throughout her lifetime.
Not only does she boast the 1996 award for Lincoln County’s Small Business Person of the Year but she also holds the 1999 title for Lincoln County’s Woman of the Year.
Her resume is saturated with local organizations she has participated in, such as the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, Charlotte Area Business League, Lincoln Housing Authority, National Ladies Auxiliary and Lincoln County Branch of the NAACP.
White is also a member of Zion Hill Baptist Church, where she has performed a variety of volunteer duties including administrative assistant, finance clerk and trustee.
Throughout the last three decades, she said she has never let clients’ stories and emotions personally trouble her. Instead of focusing on the sadness of each situation, she works to stay positive and encourage families who have lost their loved ones.
“I look after people,” White said.