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The Undertakers

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James B. McGinley,

proprietor of J.B. McGinley

and Company Home

Furniture Store. McGinley

was mayor of West Palm

Beach from 1910-1912.

Eli I. Ferguson ran a funeral home on Evernia Street during the boom and bust era, which had been started on Clematis Street by brothers James Bernardo and Harry Patrick McGinley. They operated out of the back of J. B. McGinley and Company House Furniture Store; they also sold hardware and real estate. Ferguson moved the funeral business to 636 Evernia Street and then to South Olive Avenue, just south of the present First Baptist Church. 

In 1921 Napoleon Washington “Mo” Mizell (1895-1971) came to West Palm Beach. With his wife, Frances Folsum "Frankie" Thomas, Mizell established the Mizell Mortuary at 704 South Dixie Highway for white clients; funeral homes would be segregated for decades to come. Mizell’s boasted of being the only funeral home in West Palm Beach—and possibly in Florida—with a trained nurse available at all times. Frankie Mizell was said to be a registered nurse trained at Orange General Hospital in Orlando.

As a “modern” mortician, Mizell offered first aid, autopsy, and ambulance services. Mo and Frankie Mizell answered calls in a Packard sedan ambulance, “preferable in point of taste to the regular … conspicuous type.”

In 1926 and 1928, Mizell lent a hand with the victims of south Florida’s devastating hurricanes. In January 1929, a two-page spread in The Palm Beach Times invited residents to visit the new mortuary at 413 Hibiscus Street, “one of the most complete and modern” in the south. Facilities included a music room, a nurse-supervised “slumber room” for children, guest rooms, and a $25,000 bronze coffin in stock. In 1929 Mizell Mortuary used the services of Belden’s Florist, Lainhart & Potter, and J. J. Cater’s Furniture. Of the three companies Mizell used, Belden’s Florist and J.J. Cater’s Furniture are still in business in Palm Beach County.

Clayton K. Simon, a former postmaster from Kansas, owned the Lake Worth Funeral Home and another in Delray, according to William R. Zern, Jr., who joined Mizell in 1945:

Up here in West Palm Beach, Ferguson and Mizell were splitting it pretty much; we did about 250 calls a year. But C. K. Simon then opened up a funeral home in West Palm Beach, which was pretty much across from Memorial Presbyterian Church [1300 South Olive Avenue]. … [Simon] wasn’t doing any business, and in [19]34, Mizell was going broke, so they … formed Mizell-Simon Funeral Home.

Lawrence S. Faville, from Iowa, started as an ambulance driver, and later became a partner, as did William Zern. The firm still operates as Mizell-Faville-Zern, although it is owned by Service Corp. International (SCI), the world’s largest funeral and cemetery company.
 

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