The new year has further ushered in another chapter for the legacy of a prominent Murfreesboro business.
Although the arrangements were consummated in the summer of 2011, Scales & Sons Funeral Home is now co-owned and managed by Tonya Scales Haynes, the fourth generation Scales to have it.
She is the granddaughter of Mary Scales and the late Robert Scales, affectionately known as “T-Niney” and the daughter of Robert Scales Jr.
Times have obviously changed since H. Preston Scales founded the business in 1916, from its horse-drawn carriage to nearly 100 years later with 21st century technology. However, one thing has remained constant: comfort and encouragement for the bereaved.
During my recent visit with Mary Scales, she reminisced about her father-in-law starting the funeral home almost a century ago, how her husband continued the business after the untimely death of his father, and when her son, Bob, took the reins.
Mary Scales became a part of the family when she and Robert Scales married in 1949.
Together they reared six children. She taught in the local school system and at Middle Tennessee State University, served as a public servant, and saw first hand how Scales & Sons Funeral Home touched the lives of countless people.
Born in Columbus, Ga., she was reared in Chicago. Her parents, wanting her to have the advantages of higher education, enrolled her in Knoxville College, located in East Tennessee. It was there that she became friends with Wilma Scales, sister to her future husband.
During the Easter holiday break in 1946, Wilma Scales invited her to visit with the Scales family in Murfreesboro.
While Robert Scales was a handsome and eligible bachelor, Mary Scales said she was not attracted to him at first.
Yet, he pursued the attractive young lady from Chicago with a determination to win her hand in marriage, becoming successful after three years.
Mary Scales recalled having mixed emotions about being married to an undertaker because some people have superstitions about being around the deceased.
However, she saw a bigger picture, one that allowed a funeral home director to minister and serve others during difficult times.
“(Robert) Scales was so tender hearted that he would have given the store away when people could not pay for a service,” Mary Scales said. “I had to remind him that our family depended on the income. He was determined to continue the business that his father started and even took on other enterprises to help pay the bills. He had a vending company at one time in Middle Tennessee that serviced juke boxes.
“Before integration, he opened a 12-unit hotel in Murfreesboro where black folks could have a place to stay and to also hold family reunions and such things.”
While further reminiscing about her charitable husband, Mary Scales remembered once when a family paid for a funeral service with chickens.
“He came home one day with live chickens in the back of the hearse,” she said. “We also had a family that paid for a service with a dollar per week. (Robert) Scales never received payment for some services. He always said that ‘the blessed of us must help the rest of us.’ He was a special man.”
Mary Scales said she is pleased that the legacy of Scales & Sons Funeral Home will continue through her granddaughter Tonya Scales Haynes and co-owner Derrick L. Jackson.
But, she admits to having a few tears while recalling all the memories from the past years, which allowed her to touch the lives of so many.
“It has been more than just a business,” she recalled.
She added, “If the Lord said that I could go back and live my life on earth over again, I would change very little. I would still marry the same man, rear my family, be an educator, a public servant, own a funeral home, and hope that I could make the world a better place.”
For many in Murfreesboro, Mary Scales has done just that and more.