In 1885, two brothers, Hugh Smith Kennedy and Clarence Eugene Kennedy (C.E. Kennedy), opened a local grocery and general supply store and the first known undertaking business in Laurens known as Kennedy Brothers. Kennedy Brothers originally was situated on the town square and the two brothers operated the general supply store downstairs and the undertaking business from the upstairs part of the building. They operated both businesses for many years and became well known business men in the local community as well as the funeral community. C.E. Kennedy served as president of the S.C. Funeral Directors Association in 1913 and 1914. The Kennedy brothers’ personal service in the undertaking business started a long lasting tradition in Laurens County.
Hugh S. Kennedy died in January 1917, so C.E. Kennedy continued running both businesses. A few years after Hugh’s death, C.E. Kennedy’s son, Francis Nathaniel Kennedy (Nat Kennedy), joined his dad in order to help run the funeral business. In March of 1920, the undertaking business name changed to C.E. Kennedy & Son Undertakers and Embalmers. Nat was a graduate of Bengham Military School in Mebane, NC and attended the University of South Carolina. He also graduated from Eastman School of Business Administration in Poughkeepsie, NY and Renourd School of Embalming in New York City. In order to better serve the community, C.E. and Nat moved the undertaking business from the town square to the corner of West Main St. and Caroline St. This location is presently the location of Suntrust Bank. Nat began running the business after his dad’s (C.E. Kennedy) death in April of 1936.
In June of 1943 two prominent businessmen in Laurens, M.H. Hunter, Jr. and Yancey E. Poole acquired C.E. Kennedy & Son. After taking ownership from Nat Kennedy, the name was changed to Kennedy Mortuary. Three years later, Main Street Car Fleet in November of 1946, they bought the residence of W.R. Richey located at 606 W. Main Street and renovated it into a brand new facility to serve the people of Laurens County. The mortuary still occupies the same facility.
In 1946, Mr. Hunter and Mr. Poole hired a new manager, A. Trask McCarson to run the mortuary. Mr. McCarson was a native of Hendersonville and a graduate of Furman University. He received his training as funeral director from the American Academy in New York and was associated with Thos. Shepherd (now Thos. Shepherd & Son) in Hendersonville during the late thirties and early forties. After being manager for several years, Mr. McCarson bought Kennedy Mortuary and continued ownership until his death in November 1976. In his long association of thirty years with Kennedy Mortuary, Trask served on the SC Funeral Service Licensing Board and as president of the SC Funeral Directors Association from 1961 to 1962.
Mr. McCarson’s widow, Carolyn Roper McCarson, maintained ownership until February 1983, when longtime employee and the current manager at that time, Frank E. Teague, acquired the mortuary. Mr. Teague, a native of Spartanburg County, came to Kennedy Mortuary in October of 1965. Mr. Teague served his apprenticeship and training under Mr. McCarson and graduated from the Kentucky School of Mortuary Science in Louisville, Ky. in 1969. During his twenty nine years with Kennedy Mortuary, Frank served as secretary-treasurer of the Piedmont Group of the South Carolina Funeral Directors Association and on the state board of funeral service. In an article written in the Advertiser Mr. Teague said, “We want to be sympathetic and at the same time give the best service possible. That has been the Kennedy way over the years. Once they call us, we take over from there and try to lift the burden, take it off their shoulders and put it on ours. After 100 years, it’s a commitment that will remain.” Mr. Teague retired in January of 1994.
The commitment of personal service to Laurens County was continued in 1994 by yet another owner, James E. Chandler, Jr. Long time resident of Laurens, Mr. Chandler came to Kennedy Mortuary in January of 1984. He is a graduate of Piedmont Technical College and Limestone College. He served his apprenticeship at Kennedy Mortuary and graduated from Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service in 1988.
Mr. Chandler has added a staff of caring professionals to assist the families of Laurens County.