It's a rare thing when a business stays open for 20 years or more, but an Athens business — Spry Funeral Home — is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
To that end, the funeral home has adopted the tagline, “A century of caring,” in honor of its centennial year. The funeral home's current owners, Greg and Jimmy Spry, said it's “a humbling experience” to carry on the family business started by their grandfather.
Spry was founded in 1919 by Samuel Lowe Spry Sr., who was born in Murfreesboro on Christmas Day, 1890. While still an infant, his family moved to the Cairo community in western Limestone County, where his father was a farmer.
Samuel Spry attended Oxford School, but completed his high school career in Rogersville. It was there he first became interested in the funeral home business.
Spry boarded with the local mail carrier, who used a horse and buggy to deliver the mail. He also made caskets.
After high school, Spry was drafted and served in World War I, mainly in France. After returning to North Alabama, he began his career as an undertaker. He had a horse-drawn carriage, a supply of caskets and then added in-home embalming to his list of services.
“As his undertaking efforts grew, he added a burial association for the people of North Alabama to become members to finance the cost of burial services,” Greg Spry said. “That later grew into a burial insurance company.”
In addition to his funeral home interests, Samuel Spry was also an avid cattle grower and family man. His marriage to the former Birdie Thornton produced eight children — five boys and three girls. Four of the boys continued the tradition of the funeral business, cattle growing and insurance. The only surviving son is James B. Spry, father of Greg and Jimmy.
The third-generation Spry brothers have operated Spry Funeral Home for the past 33 years. Greg Spry said it's now one of the oldest operating funeral homes in not only the state, but also the nation.
“We are proud of the fact so many families have trusted us to care for their loved ones over the last 100 years,” the brothers said in a statement.
Greg and Jimmy are both residents of Athens. Greg is a 1983 graduate of Jefferson State College with a degree in mortuary science and funeral service education. He holds national board certificates as a funeral director and embalmer in Alabama and Tennessee, is a licensed insurance agent in Alabama, a licensed preneed agent and is a certified crematory operator.
Jimmy has 43 years of experience as a licensed funeral director and is also a licensed preneed agent.
The funeral home is located at 100 U.S. 31 South in Athens. Visit spryfuneralhome.com for more information.