Virus claims Black morticians, leaving holes in communities

National

Mortician Shawn Troy stands at the grave of his father, William Penn Troy Sr., at Hillcrest Cemetery outside Mullins, S.C., on Sunday, May 23, 2021. The elder Troy, who developed the cemetery, died of COVID-19 in August 2020, one of many Black funeral directors to succumb during the pandemic. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over it,” he said. “But I’ll get through it.” (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

MULLINS, S.C. (AP) — About 130 Black morticians have died of COVID-19 across the United States. The deaths are particularly notable because of the prominent role that funeral directors have long played in many Black communities. Often admired for their success in business, a number have been elected to political office, served as local power brokers, and helped fund civil rights efforts.

Their deaths have left some successors struggling to fill their roles. At the same time, the services they arrange can serve as communal touchstones that draw mourners together. When the pandemic hit, the very closeness that distinguishes Black funerals put morticians at risk.

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