Chattanooga Funeral Home Celebrates 90th Anniversary

  • Monday, January 30, 2023
  • Earl Freudenberg

The Chattanooga Funeral Home has been serving families with dignity in the Tennessee Valley for 90 years.

Chattanooga Funeral Home was established in 1933 as the National Funeral Home and opened at 500 McCallie Ave. near the Christ Episcopal Church.

Alvin Wunderlich Sr., along with his two sons, Alvin Jr. and Walter, founded National Funeral Home in Memphis in 1931. The Wunderlichs came to Chattanooga in 1933 and opened a second National Funeral Home near downtown. Carroll Wells moved here from Memphis to operate the Wunderlichs’ new Chattanooga business.

Nine years later owners acquired property at the corner of McCallie Avenue and Hawthorne Street. Mr. Wells, manager of the new Chattanooga business (1800 McCallie Ave.), said the building was designed and constructed to be a funeral home. “We didn’t want it to look like offices,” said Mr. Wells.

He said the names in both Tennessee cities were changed in the mid 50’s to better identify with the communities they serve.

Mr. Wells saw an opportunity for expansion and convinced the Wunderlich family to purchase an old supermarket across Hawthorne Street. He said they remodeled the old store and named it West Chapel. Mr. Wells said, "Our families liked the new chapel and its level parking lot. The original building became the East Chapel."

Mr. Wells had been following the career of a young Gene Pike who was working at a LaFayette, Ga. funeral home - he hired Mr. Pike in 1957.

Mr. Wells said. “Young man, someday I’m going to retire and we’ll need somebody to work hard, maybe taking my place.” Mr. Pike said he was ready for the challenge and took the job. Mr. Pike became president of Chattanooga Funeral Home in 1977 when Mr. Wells did retire.

Mr. Pike has been with Chattanooga Funeral Home 65 of those 90 years.

Chattanooga Funeral Home merged with Service Corporation International, Aug. 28, 1970.

Under Mr. Pike’s leadership, the North Chapel on Highway 153 opened in 1970. Mr. Pike said, “Hixson was the logical location because of growth north of the Tennessee River and the proposed site was next door to a large cemetery.

The firm built another chapel in 1978 on Moore Road and named it East Chapel. The original building in Highland Park was sold and used for several purposes. It was recently remodeled for educational use.

Chattanooga Funeral Home acquired the Valley View Chapel off I-75 in 1992 and opened the East Brainerd Chapel in November, 2005.

SCI Funeral Service of Tennessee closed the West Chapel in the mid 1990s and formed Advantage Funeral Home made up of Franklin Strickland and J. Avery Bryan Funeral Homes and Prestige Funeral Services. The full service facility has been updated to meet the needs of families who desire to use that chapel.

Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist operates two cemeteries, Hamilton Memorial Gardens and Chattanooga Memorial Park or historic White Oak Cemetery (duck pond) that opened in 1895. Both cemeteries were acquired from the original owners in the 90s.

Chattanooga Funeral Home began operating a full service florist in 1985 and opened their crematory in the spring of 2004. They have a full service care center that serves all chapels.

Vice President Stephen Pike said Chattanooga Funeral Homes' first commitment has always been to the families. He said, “It begins with pre-arranging and we have qualified counselors at each location to answer questions. We are a full service provider dedicated to helping families make difficult end of life decisions – every detail is important to us. Our floral designers have years of experience and are able to meet the individual needs. Some families chose modern celebrations over the traditional service; our directors are trained to help a person decide what is best in each situation. We want to make sure every memorial is memorable, that’s our passion, purpose and promise.”

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