Always There, Always Fair
by Melissa LaScaleia
“I was raised on a dairy farm, outside of Danville, in Virginia,” says Jim Bowdre, the owner of Myrtle Beach Funeral Home and Crematory. “And I learned at an early age, that the easiest way to get out of farming was to get an education. I spent my formative years raising cattle before I got a full ride academic scholarship to attend college at Virginia Tech. I went on to get a master’s degree in education at UVA.
“My first love was teaching. Then, a relative introduced me to another profession, the funeral business, and I really liked it.”
Jim decided to pursue his interest and attended embalming school, getting a third degree in mortuary science. He became licensed and worked in the industry with his relative for five years then decided to explore the wholesale end of the business.
He went to work for Hillenbrand Industries, the world’s largest casket and hospital bed company, and stayed with them for twenty-seven years as a territory manger, covering NC, SC and GA. He also taught continuing education in North and South Carolina for funeral directors.
Jim and his wife, Carole, have three daughters, all of whom live in the Myrtle Beach area. One is a nurse, one is a doctor, and one is a manager at Drunken Jack’s restaurant. The couple had been coming to Myrtle Beach for years to visit their children, and decided to move here permanently in 2004.
“I retired early and got involved with playing a lot of golf, and then I was bored,” Jim says. “Then I met a very altruistic gentleman, Greg Everett, who wanted to make funeral costs more affordable. Greg is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. He was trying to come up with a business plan to offer premier service at an affordable price, because the biggest thing that drives people away from a funeral home is the cost.”
Greg didn’t have any funeral knowledge, but Jim did. What Greg did have, was marketing expertise.
With Jim’s help, Greg started the Myrtle Beach Funeral Home and Crematory in 2008. With his love of the funeral business, Jim worked for him after retirement, and ultimately purchased it from him in 2011, so Greg could manage his other businesses.
Today, Jim and Carole run the funeral home together.
“One thing we really promote— is that we offer premier services at affordable prices while still maintaining the highest level of ethical business practices,” Carole says. “We offer everything any other funeral home does, full service, but because we are a smaller facility—7,000 square feet rather than 17,000 square feet, we have lower overhead, and so we are able to offer lower prices.”
The facility includes a large dining area, several arrangement offices, a non-denominational chapel which holds 115, a smaller chapel, a family room, and an on-site crematory with a family room attached. They also offer catering services.
“The market has shifted and traditional funerals have shifted,” Carole says. “The ceremony is changing now to be more a celebration of life. You need less space, and the popularity of cremations has grown tremendously. The world has changed. Nuclear families spread out all over, and we don’t have family burial plots like we did years ago.”
Myrtle Beach Funeral Home and Crematory offers all traditional services for cremations and burials. They accommodate all wishes and all religious preferences.
Carole writes a lot of articles about the funeral industry, and how families can navigate end-of-life issues together.
One of the topics she tries to educate people about is that of the importance of prearrangement, the action of specifying wishes and planning your funeral while you are healthy.
“Prearrangement is one of the greatest gifts that someone can give their family,” she says. “At the time of death, emotions and anxiety are escalated, often family members cannot think clearly, and cannot make decisions. With a prearrangement, it allows family members to follow the wishes of the deceased and relieves a lot of stress.”
Carole has a degree in business and psychology from Francis Marion University. She began her college career as a business major, but enjoyed psychology so much she ended up with a double major.
She has twenty years of hospice experience, counseling families who have lost loved ones and helping them navigate the end of the life process. She is a firm believer in the healing power of the grieving process.
“I enjoy helping the families who come to us,” Carole says. “Sometimes I sit and cry with them. It’s rewarding to me to know that in the slightest way I helped them get through this loss.”
“My favorite thing about what I do is satisfying families,” Jim says. “When the services are over, and young folks say to me: ‘I have no idea how I could have done this without you all.’ I like hearing that. I like to hear that I’ve been there for somebody. To know that they appreciate my help.”
“A lot of our families tell us that they love the relaxed atmosphere we have here, and the compassion that they feel from our staff,” Carole says. “That they feel so at home and comfortable here with us.
“It’s meaningful to me to know that at the end of the day, I’ve helped a family through this—the most difficult time in anyones’ life. We also offer bereavement services, and people often come to us for assistance with grieving before their loved one has passed.”
Jim and Carole stay active and involved in our community, supporting the local schools, law enforcements, the Heart Association, and the March of Dimes, to name a few.
“We support everything we can in Horry County,” Carole says. “They’ve been good to us, and we try to give back to them.”