Cody Gore, the funeral director at Grant Memorial Funeral Home, holds a rather unusual distinction.
He is only 31 years old, but he has been in the funeral business since he was just 15 years old. It kind of happened by accident.
He grew up at Geraldine and his family was friends with Tom Wilson's family. Tom had W.T. Wilson Funeral Home, the mortuary that does a lot of funerals in the Rainsville area.
"I was working for the radio station in Boaz and I had gone by to pick up a check for their advertising," Cody said.
It was a Saturday and the funeral home was slammed with 2 or 3 funerals going at about the same time. They were so busy Tom asked Cody if he could answer the phone for them while they held those services.
One thing led to another and pretty soon Cody was working for W.T. Wilson Funeral Home as well as working at the radio station.
It was office work in the beginning.
"Computers were just getting big and they thought I was a computer genius," Cody said. "I wasn't, but I could help them out a little with the computer."
Cody's dream growing up was to teach school and coach baseball. But his college classes weren't all they cracked up to be and he ended up working at W.T. Wilson full-time.
He became a licensed funeral director in 2010 at the age of 21.
He was really just a kid when he went on his first "death calls," when a funeral home worker is called to pick up a body. "Death calls" for a funeral home aren't as prevalent as they once were. A service typically does pick-ups these days.
W.T. Wilson was very much a "traditional" funeral home and tradition is still very important to Cody. That meant wearing a full suit when you go on a death call, something Cody still does.
"That's the first impression a grieving family has of the funeral home and you want it to be a good one," Cody said.
He learned to always put himself in the place of the grieving family and said he strives to treat them just as he himself would want to be treated. He has lost his own father, so he knows what it is like to be on the other side of the table when making funeral arrangements.
Cody is married to the former Kelsy Jackson. They have 2 boys, Greyson, 2-1/2, and Tripp, 3 months. Kelsy is a Gunter Mountain native so that's helped Cody become assimilated into the Grant community. It's a small community, not unlike the Geraldine community where he grew up.
He must be doing okay. He's vice-president of the Grant Chamber of Commerce these days.
Cody also works at Scottsboro Funeral Home, which is part of the same group as Grant. He and his family live at Swearengin, so it's not far to drop off the mountain to the Scottsboro home or to drive to Grant. He is working on getting his Tennessee funeral director's license, since sometimes both Grant and Scottsboro handle a burial in nearby Tennessee.
His mentor Tom Wilson was coroner and Cody served as a deputy coroner under him. Today, Cody serves as a deputy coroner under Marshall County coroner Cody Nugent.
"We have a deputy in each district in the county," Cody Gore said. "It might be hard for the coroner to get there, so it makes sense."
Cody has seen it about as bad as it gets in his line of work. He was a DeKalb County deputy coroner during the tornado outbreak of April 2011. 36 people lost their lives in DeKalb County.
The Alabama Funeral Directors Association has a special disaster response team known as SMORT, the State Mortuary Operations Response Team. It was activated to help deal with the loss of life in DeKalb County. They set up special operations in a fire station for families to identify their loved ones. It mostly involved using technology to keep the families from having to look directly at the bodies.
The process worked well, Cody said, including bringing in interpreters to assist Spanish-speaking families.
The funeral business continues to evolve. Cremations are on the rise. They were a bit taboo when Cody first got in the business. But like anything else, the more people chose them, the more accepted they become. Cody is a licensed cremationist as well as a licensed funeral director.
He holds a lot of designations, including Certified Funeral Service Practitioner (CFSP), one of only 3 funeral directors in Marshall County who hold this designation.
Another trend in the funeral business is having the visitation, immediately followed by the funeral, on the same day. The family only has to bear up to the strain once instead of twice.
Some people still come in and say they want an "old timey" service and Cody knows just what they're talking about, the visitation one night followed by a traditional service the next day. Cody is a very traditional guy and that's the type of service he wants for himself when his time comes.
Cody has seen some interesting touches to personalize a service, two of them involving racing. A racer became terminally ill and made his final arrangements before he passed.
"He said, 'I've never gone slow in my life and I don't want the funeral procession to go slow,'" Cody said. They took him to the cemetery at 65 miles per hour.
Another woman was a passionate racing fan, spending every Friday night at Dekalb County's race track. The owners of the track knew this and wanted to add a special touch for her. The funeral procession included a slight detour to the track, where it proceeded around the track one lap before going on to the cemetery.
Cody made the NBC Nightly News once when he worked at W.T. Wilson. They were doing a piece on dangerous occupations and a tower climber NBC had interviewed had died in an accident. The news report included a photo of W.T. Wilson's hearse pulling away from the chapel.
A Rick Bragg quote from the book "All Over But the Shoutin'" hangs by Cody's desk. It reads “Every life deserves a certain amount of dignity, no matter how poor or damaged the shell that carries it.”
Cody has tried to live his life in the funeral business remembering that as his motto.