Kim Jones hears it all the time. “You don’t look like a funeral director.”
She laughs it off, as funeral directors are not straight out of “The Addams Family.” They’re licensed men and increasingly, women, who meet all the needs of families when they have lost loved ones.
“There’s so much value in funeral service that people don’t understand,” said Jones, associate professor for Tidewater Community College’s Funeral Service Program. “Of course, you miss the person, but the funeral is not for the deceased. It’s for people who are still here to help them with the grieving process.”
Jones teaches all the funeral service classes related to science – Microbiology for Funeral Service (FNS 125), Anatomy for Funeral Service (FNS 121) in addition to her favorite – Restorative Art I and II (211 and 212), which teaches techniques for restorations and recreations of facial features.
“I could wake up at 2 in the morning and teach that class,” she says. “I know and love it so much.”
Jones had a curiosity about funerals while at Norcom High School and often questioned a close friend whose family had its own funeral home. The limited answers only drove her to learn more on her own. She graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s in 1997 before completing her master’s in biology from the University of Maryland. Her initial plan was a career in pathology.
“Then I realized I wasn’t as interested in the etiology of diseases as I was with disposition – what’s done after the fact to create that pleasant memory for the family,” she says.
Jones earned her license in mortuary science from the University of the District of Columbia and moved back home to practice. During an internship at a Norfolk funeral home, she got to know Frank Walton, current program head for TCC’s Funeral Service Program.
“Today my license still hangs in the Walton Funeral home in Virginia Beach,” she says.
After taking education coursework at ODU, Jones worked as a middle school science teacher and as an adjunct professor at TCC in the biology department and at Norfolk State University’s funeral service program. When TCC started its own funeral service program, Jones transitioned to a full-time professor at the college, allowing her to practice what she preaches.
“I love what I do,” she says. “I have the best of both worlds. I can practice it, and I can teach it. I get to take the enthusiasm and the passion I have for it and share it with other people.”
While funerals and death are often considered taboo subjects, they’re not in Jones’ classes. “My classes are very lively,” she says. “They give students the opportunity to tie in real-world experiences they’ve had, bring them into the classroom and discuss them.”
Jones still works funerals regularly as a director, sometimes alongside TCC students, and approaches it this way. “I take all of it as if it were me,” she says. “Whatever the person has gone through, I don’t always know. But if it was me and I was going through this difficult time, what would I need to help me get through the grief process? I work on creating that pleasant memory for the family.”
Jones has a family of her own in Chesapeake. She and husband Rodney have two sons, Rodney Jr., 12, and Kole, 10. In her free time, Jones enjoys dancing to all kinds of music and weight training.