BUSTA’S FAMILY OF THE WEEK: 80 years of bringing closure to grieving families

Carl Sr. and Florrie Russell

BUSTA’S FAMILY OF THE WEEK: 80 years of bringing closure to grieving families
October 24
04:56 2019

By Busta Brown

Sometimes your first choice is not God’s choice. Then what do you do?

Well, you sit still and wait on a word from God. But not everyone is strong enough or has the discipline to do so. An honor student from Johnson C. Smith University not only listened to God’s purpose for his life, he also took a leap of faith.

Carl Hairston Russell Sr.’s first choice was to go to dental school, but God had another plan for him. “He couldn’t afford dental school at that time,” said Cedric Russell Sr. Some time passed and then came some serious praying. There it was, a clear vision to attend mortuary school.

Carl Russell Sr. searched for an affordable mortuary school and also one that would accept black students. In the 1930s, that wasn’t an easy task, but he was a strong, wise and determined black man. He got accepted into the University of Minnesota, where he received a Mortuary Science Degree. In the 1930s, it was one of the top mortuary schools in the country. Russell continued stepping out on faith and moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked at an officer’s club. When he saved enough money, he took an even greater faith leap and bought a funeral home in Falls Church, Va., that had gone out of business. In October of 1939, the wise and determined young man moved to Winston-Salem, bought some equipment to get his business started, and the 80-year success of Russell’s Funeral Home began. 

Behind every successful man, there’s always a wise and strong woman, and that woman was his wife of over 50 years, Florrie S. Russell. Florrie was a school teacher by trade, but used her wisdom and talents to help build one of the top funeral homes in Winston-Salem.

“They met while my mom was a student at Winston-Salem Teachers College, which is now Winston-Salem State University,” said Cedric Russell, Sr., who is one of 11 siblings.

The patriarch of the Russell family taught his children to always do the right thing. “He taught us to do business the right way and to make sure we surrounded ourselves with a staff that’s kind, courteous and knowledgeable about the funeral business. My mom and dad also believed that to stay successful, gratitude should always be our attitude,” Cedric said. 

In 1987, Carl Russell Harris went on to glory. Ten years later, in 1997, the matriarch of the Russell family, Florrie S. Russell, joined her husband. The Russells left their business in good hands. Today, siblings Edward, Cedric, and Carmen are the reason the business is celebrating its 80th anniversary.

“I have to give credit to our 17 staff members. They’re our extended family, Busta. Our staff is everything my dad taught us – kind, courteous and knowledgeable about the business. The number one reason for our success is my father’s ability to give families closure. My father mastered that gift. When he passed away, Chris and Carl inherited that gift of closure. Carl Jr. taught our Royal Brooks, and Royal is now phenomenal.” 

I asked Cedric to explain what closure is. “A family brought a loved one to us that was really beaten up by cancer and was afraid they couldn’t have an open casket. When we finished, one of the family members said they looked as if they fell asleep and was at peace, and then thanked us for giving their family the closure they needed. We get loved ones that were in terrible car accidents and sometimes even worse. Our job is to make sure the families get that closure, that peace.”

I have a personal testimony I’d like to share. My good friend, 102 Jamz radio personality Tap Money, lost his mother to cancer. He trusted Russell’s Funeral Home to give him the closure he desperately needed. Tap was extremely close to his mother. She was his everything, his air supply. On his way to Russell’s, I got a call. “Busta, I can’t do this alone. Come get me and drive me to Winston.”

When I arrived, he came out of his home in tears. I gave my little bro a big hug and tried to console him. He wanted his mom and I understood 100%. The short time I knew her, she was one of the sweetest, most gentle spirits I was blessed to know. So, this was a very difficult trip for me as well. This was going to be the first time he’s seen mom since her spirit went on to glory.

We arrived at Russell’s and there was Carmen with a big, beautiful and the brightest smile. “Hey, Tap Money and hey, Busta Brown. Give me a hug. Come on in, your mother is right here.” Tap slowly walks into the room with tears falling from his eyes. He grabbed my hand, “Let’s do this B,” he said. He slowly looked up to see his mom. Immediately, the tears stopped. A beautiful calm came over us. There she was, looking absolutely beautiful and at peace. In hindsight, I now realize, I’m a witness of what closure is. Tap looked at me, smiled and said, “Wow! Look at my mother. She looks beautiful, B.” He looked at Carmen and said, “Thank you so much. Ya’ll did a phenomenal job.” Tap was able to breathe again.

Russell’s Funeral Home. Dedicated to serve you better. With 80 years of giving families closure. Call 336-722-3459 or stop by 822 Carl Russell Ave. in Winston-Salem.

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