Longtime funeral home operator Walter B. Taylor Sr., 89, died Thursday at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington.
For decades, Mr. Taylor ran one of Lexington's oldest black-owned businesses, Hawkins Funeral Home — now known as Hawkins-Taylor Funeral Home.
"He's the last of the older funeral directors that used to be in Lexington," said his son, John Taylor, who now runs the funeral home. "At one time, there were nine black funeral homes in Lexington."
Mr. Taylor got into the funeral home business through his wife, Ann Hawkins Taylor, whose father, John T. Hawkins, opened the funeral home in the 1920s.
Ann Hawkins Taylor and Walter Taylor ran the business together until her death in 1984. After that, Mr. Taylor operated it himself until John Taylor took over operations in the 1990s.
Today, John Taylor operates the funeral home with his wife, Christine, and help from their children. The business is located at 425 Race Street but has had former locations on Patterson Street and Pine Street.
John Taylor said his father was a leader in his industry, having served on the board of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association.
He said Mr. Taylor was "a great storyteller."
"He could make you laugh at the drop of a hat," he said. "What I was taught by my dad was to take the worst day in a person's life and make them smile."
Mr. Taylor was a Navy veteran who served during World War II; also, he was senior deacon and the oldest member at Mount Calvary Baptist Church on Todds Road, in the community where he grew up, John Taylor said.
In addition to his son, Mr. Taylor is survived by his daughter, Janet Taylor.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Mount Calvary Baptist Church. Visitation is from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the church. Hawkins-Taylor Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.