By Mike Steely
“Service like it used to be” is more than a motto at Stevens Mortuary. As the Stevens family and their dedicated staff celebrate their 60th anniversary this year, they continue to adhere to the values and mission-of service that led Tom and Bernice Stevens to establish the mortuary in the late 1950s at the corner of Raleigh and Broadway.
Following Mr. Stevens’ death in 1978, Mrs. Bernice Stevens became president. Her sister, Mary Cantwell, is chief operating officer/funeral director/embalmer; Evelyn Stevens Grindstaff, daughter of Tom and Bernice, is vice president.
One day recently, The Knoxville Focus had a chat with Miss Cantwell and Ms. Grindstaff and three of their staff, Funeral Director/Embalmer Don Haynes, Funeral Director Bill Whedbee, and Systems Manager Steve Vandergriff, about the history and services of this family company. The family and employees take great pride in being a family-owned and independent funeral home.
After opening in 1958, the mortuary relocated in 1961 into the former plantation home built in 1833 for Colonel James Scott and Mrs. Eliza Ramsey Scott. The home, located on 1304 Oglewood Avenue, was named Cedar Grove. Cantwell said the historic home, owned during the Civil War by W.L. Ledgerwood (the “Red Fox”), was used as a hospital during that time.
Dr. Pickering Ogle, a prominent dentist, and his wife Edith remodeled the home extensively, adding electricity, running water, central heating and a kitchen. Oglewood Baptist Church added the chapel which is still used. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens greatly expanded the interior, adding large viewing rooms, offices, and selection rooms as well as enhancing the exterior building and gardens. Furnished with antiques personally selected by Mrs. Stevens, the mortuary offers a comfortable and home-like atmosphere like no other.
Stevens Mortuary offers a full line of personalized funeral services including traditional services, military services for veterans, out-of-state arrangements and cremation. They also offer comprehensive planning services for those who want to pre-arrange their funerals.
“Services are planned by family members, the funeral director and often a minister to meet the wishes of the families. Services can be as elaborate or simple as a family wants,” Whedbee told The Focus. Attention to detail is of utmost importance, and they often fill requests for dove or balloon releases, military honors, bagpipers, video tributes, and other special remembrances.
Grindstaff added, “We encourage families to bring mementoes for display, including pictures and favorite possessions. We often see beautiful handmade quilts and other intricate handiwork.”
“One time the family brought a beloved motorcycle belonging to the deceased, which the family displayed during the visitation,” Cantwell noted.
Haynes, who is also a Pre-need Counselor, said, “There are families who arranged pre-planned services with us years ago and continue to turn to us when in need.” He answers questions of family members on any aspect of pre-planning and arranging services, including burial or cremation options, types of services, final disposition, and all options of financing and insurance to meet each family’s budget.
Haynes said Stevens Mortuary has developed a new at-need offering called the American Patriot Package. “It is designed to honor those who defend our country and protect our citizenry from harm, both abroad and domestically. It is available only to active duty and honorably discharged veterans, active duty and retired law enforcement, firemen and first responders.”
Regardless of the day or hour, only Stevens Mortuary’s professional staff will answer your telephone call (no answering service) and will come to the home or medical facility to serve you personally. They also process insurance policies at no charge.
You can find Stevens Mortuary online at www.stevensmortuaryinc.com, on Facebook, or call them at (865) 524-0331. The historic home is located at 1304 Oglewood Avenue, just off Broadway.