History

Mrs. J. W. Jones Memorial Chapel was founded in 1900 by the late Mr. J. W. Jones and was originally named the Kansas City Embalming and Casket Company. Its original location was 440 State Avenue, and Mr. Jones also owned the livery stables next door at 444 State Avenue, which provided horse-drawn hearses for families at the funeral home in addition to carriages for hauling purposes. The firm enjoys a steep tradition within the Kansas City African-American community and continues to be the oldest African-American funeral home in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Upon Mr. Jones’ death in 1921, his wife, Mrs. Mary A. Jones, continued the operations of her late husband’s business. The business survived the Great Depression and emerged and prospered under the direction of Mrs. J. W. Jones.

Mrs. Jones carried on her husband’s dream, modernizing the original facility until she was forced to relocate in the late 1950’s due to an Urban Renewal Project on State Avenue. The business moved to 2110 N. 5th Street . Upon her death in 1963, Mrs. Jones left the business to Clyde M. Frey, who had been with the firm for 24 years as an embalmer and assistant funeral director and Robert E. Powell, also an assistant funeral director for the firm. She chose these men to carry on the business because of their knowledge and manner in which they provided services to the community around them.

In 1973, the funeral home moved to its current location at 703 N. 10th Street, Kansas City, Kansas, and was permanently renamed the Mrs. J. W. Jones Memorial Chapel. Mr. Powell’s daughter, Peggy, joined the firm in the early 1980’s as a licensed funeral director and embalmer and also provided administrative assistant services to the business. Upon Mr. Frey ’s death, Mr. Powell operated the business with his daughter until her death in 1993. Later, Mr. Powell persuaded his sister, Shirley Gamble, and her daughter, Stephanie Swait, to join the firm. After his death in 1995, the business was left to Shirley Gamble and Stephanie Swait. The business continued to be operated by Shirley and Stephanie until the untimely passing of Stephanie in November of 2002, and the subsequent passing of Shirley Gamble in January of 2003. The business is currently operated by a dedicated staff consisting of Ellsworth Crosby, Jr., Mary McCree, Craig Campbell, Ed Powell, Thomas Carter, Larry Caldwell, Rev. Maurice Porter, and many others.

The business has enjoyed a long history within the community and continues today to be a premier funeral home within the African-American community it serves.