OAK PARK – In a kind and soft tone, Shirley V. White, the funeral director of Morgan Jones Funeral Home in Oak Park, asked one of her employees to do a simple task while she took care of paperwork in one of her conference rooms.

Shirley White, right, funeral director at Morgan Jones Funeral Home in Oak Park, goes over some paperwork for a client, as Niasha Dillard, left, listens in on the discussion. (OBSERVER photo by Antonio R. Harvey)

A visitation service was in progress at the funeral home on Broadway and Ms. White has had to clamp down on spacing and make adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made her business essential.

On the east side of the facility, a family and friends waited outside in the parking lot waiting their turn to visit a deceased loved one. For those who waited, the staff at the funeral home made physical separation a mandatory action.

“Make sure you only let three to five people in the building,” Ms. White said to a female employee. “Please keep them spaced out.”

The National Funeral Directors Association is being navigated by guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Transfers, arrangements, cremation, burials, visitation, and public gatherings fall under stringent measures.

“It’s difficult and it’s hard adjusting,” Ms. White told OBSERVER. “But we’re going to take care of our families, we’re going to get stuff done. We just have to follow the rules and do the best we can do for them.”

Morgan Jones and other funeral homes are considered “essential.” The social distancing inside and outside the facility is where it begins.

Ms. White asks people on visits to wash their hands before attending and you will see plenty of them there for visitation wearing masks. Mostly, by their own choices. She said it’s really not a hard task to do.

Normally, she could do about three visitations each day, but since the virus outbreak, those are spaced out as well. Ms. White and her staff are only doing one funeral per day and they run pretty smoothly, too.

She stated the obvious when she was asked if Morgan Jones had to shut down because of the stay-at-home order.

“Where would we put the bodies?” Ms. White said. “We just can’t let them stack up.”

At the locations of funerals, Ms. White can only preside over a service with 10 or fewer people. It’s a hard count but that also is one of the rules that must be obeyed.

For instance, she recently did a funeral service at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon and it was made sure that only 10 people could drive to the area where the departed was interred.

Sacramento Valley National Cemetery is one of eight national cemeteries in California and about 400,000 veterans rest at the cemetery on more than 560 acres. Small gatherings are not normally active at the cemetery funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, though the 10-person rule is mandatory.

At least until the stay-at-home order is lifted and the rules are adjusted.
“That’s the rules,” Ms. White said. “It’s an adjustment but we are not going (break them).”

Morgan Jones, started in 1948 at 12th and Q streets in downtown Sacramento by Grace M. Jones and her brother William Morgan, has been serving the Sacramento community for more than 70 years.

By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer