Collins Funeral Home is celebrating a major milestone -- being in operation for 100 years this year.
Elizabeth Collins purchased the home in 1898, 16 years before the Collins family began offering funeral services to the African-American community. Amon Collins Sr., Elizabeth’s son, started the funeral home in 1914 out of a small building facing Campbell Street next to the current location of the home. After the family raised the current building in the early 1950s, the Collins family moved the business into what is now Collins Funeral Home.
Following Amon Collins Sr.’s death in 1960, his sons George, Mack Sr. and Amon Jr. gained ownership. Amon Jr. and Mack Sr. eventually left the funeral business, but George remained at the home until his death in 1974.
Current owner Roosevelt Osborne and his wife, Beverly, rented the house next door to the home in 1972 and -- aside from being an educator in the Kershaw County School District -- he also worked for Willie Mae Collins, George’s wife and sole proprietor after his death. Roosevelt Osborne said he performed different tasks in and around the home.
“I would help Mrs. Collins with yard work and such, not knowing that I would eventually come into the business myself,” Roosevelt Osborne said.
He later served as an apprentice funeral director for two years assisting Willie Mae and embalmers.
Willie Mae promoted Roosevelt Osborne to manager in 1989 and, 10 years later in 1999, he and his wife were given ownership.
Due to incorporating the same motto and purpose from the years when the Collins family owned the business, as well as to preserve its history, the Osborne’s chose to keep the Collins name.
“The name wasn’t broken, so why change it?” Roosevelt Osborne said.
Although Roosevelt and Beverly Osborne still use the Collins name and the same principles, one change they are preparing to make is the use of modern technology to develop an online presence, providing families with more options for keeping their loved one’s memory alive.
According to Roosevelt Osborne, the funeral home will launch a website in the near future. The website is expected to contain digital guest books, memorial slideshows, customized video tributes, online obituaries and information for products such as caskets and cremation urns. The Osbornes are planning something else, too.
“In the future, we not only want to serve families, but we want to show the community our appreciation by having cookouts annually,” Roosevelt said.
Other future plans for the home are to host annual memorial programs and seminars. The staff specifically wants to hold seminars about hospice care; important documents and benefits to obtain in preparation for the death of a veteran; information about the types of life insurance available; how to probate estates; wills and power of attorney; and other related topics that are of interest to the community and, the Osbornes said, will help citizens prepare for the death of a loved one.
The new annual tradition of a cookout will begin Nov. 15 from 1 to 4 p.m. on the west lawn of the home in celebration of Collins’ centennial. The public is invited.