The Bronx-based Ross-Roden Funeral Services, LLC on Friday night commemorated its 25th anniversary with a gala celebration at Villa Barone Manor on Throggs Neck Expressway in the Bronx.
Founder and owner Francine Ross-Roden, the daughter of Grenadian immigrants, lauded those who helped her along her journey, including clients, funeral services’ directors and family members.
As Veterans Day was observed on Friday, Ross-Roden presented pins to those at the gala reception who served in the US Armed Services.
She also received proclamations from House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, read by her ex-husband Grenadian-born Daniel Roden, Sr.; Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, read by Queens County District Leader 33rd ADRoslin Spigner, and the Brooklyn-headquartered Grand Council of the Independent United Order of Mechanics (IUOM), read by Vincentian-born Executive Grand Counselor Casper Edwards, who was one of Ross-Roden’s clients, when his son died two years ago. Daniel Roden, Sr. is also an IUOM executive grand counselor.
Members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. were on hand to celebrate with Ross-Roden, a member of the Queens Alumnae Chapter.
Ross-Roden, who was raised and educated in the Bronx, said that, at 9, she received her calling to become a funeral director and embalmer.
Two years later, she said she “committed” herself to one day owning her own funeral home.
Over 30 years ago, Ross-Roden said she received her formal education, achieving an Associate Degree in Applied Science, specializing in Mortuary Science, from the State University of New York at Farmingdale.
After working at two funeral homes, she said she started Ross-Roden Funeral Services, LLC “out of” the East End Funeral Home on East Gun Hill Road in the Bronx.
Ross-Roden also received her Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Master of Science in Education, both from Lehman College, City University of New York (CUNY) in the Bronx.
She is a member of the National Funeral Directors Association, National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, New York State Funeral Directors Association, Epsilon Nu Delta Mortuary Fraternity and the Empire Funeral Directors Association, currently serving as the recording and corresponding secretary.
Ross-Roden said her career, in both funeral service and education, has allowed her the “opportunity to mentor young ladies in both fields.”
Over the years, Ross-Roden said conducted workshops in various areas of funeral service, such as explaining what takes place in funeral arrangements, as well as the duties of an embalmer to adults and children.
Ross-Roden said she serves on the Social Action Committee of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Over the years, through the sorority, she said she has assisted in various tasks, including registering voters in the community and, recently, serving as a panelist on female entrepreneurship.
Ross-Roden said while she has “a deep love for assisting and caring for those in need”, her love also extends to her family, especially her son, Daniel.
In reading the history of Ross-Roden Funeral Services, LLC, written by Ross-Roden herself, Nadiyah Marcano, administrative assistant and 25th Anniversary Gala Committee member, recalled that it was in 1979 that Ross-Roden attended her first wake.
“It was for the daughter of friends of my parents who passed away at a very young age, her early 20’s,” Ross-Roden wrote. “My parents tried to prepare my sister Judith and I for what we might experience at the wake. Needless to say, I was curious because this was something new and intriguing for me at such a young age.
“We arrived at the Funeral Home in Brooklyn, and we proceeded to the chapel, where she was reposing,” she added. “I was in total awe. She looked so beautiful. I noticed that her parents were talking to everyone as they arrived, thanking them for their support.”
Ross-Roden said “Nennie” was there also. “Nennie” is Ross-Roden’s Godmother and her mom’s cousins.
“I went to Nennie and expressed how I felt, as we will be together for the prayer service,” Ross-Roden said. “It was then that I told her that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to make people pretty when they died. I want to be a funeral director.”
A few years later, Ross-Roden said she was introduced to her first role model in funeral service, Hanna Griffin, an African-American Funeral Director, who owned her own funeral home.
Ross-Roden said Hanna Griffin was a character on the TV show “Frank’s Place,” portrayed by Daphne Maxwell Reid.
“I would sneak to watch the show every Monday night on CBS, around 8:00 p.m., when daddy would take his nap before picking up mommy from work at 11:00 p.m.,” she said. “Seeing a woman own a funeral home planted the seed that, one day, I would own a funeral home.”
In high school, Ross-Roden said she visited the local funeral home from time to time, going into the chapels, paying her respects to each person.
She said she also attended more funerals with her parents or Nennie, taking mental notes of how each chapel was furnished, as well as observing the lighting and the literature offered, and creating a book on her observations.
After graduating from mortuary school in 1991, Ross-Roden said she passed the National Board exam and began residency at Mickey Funeral Service in Harlem.
There, she said she learned how to embalm, employing the science learned in school and developing the art she learned at Mickey’s.
Ross-Roden said she also learned the business part of funeral service, staying employed at Mickey until December 1994.
In January 1995, she said she began working at Granby’s Funeral Service, where she continued embalming and “attained more concentrated experience in the business side of funeral service.”
In March 1998, after encouragement from my close family members, Ross-Roden said she embarked on her journey of entrepreneurship; and, in May 1998, Ross-Roden Funeral Services was registered in the State of New York and began operating as a funeral establishment.
“The beginnings of Ross-Roden Funeral Services were quite humbling,” she said. “The first family I served was in July 1998. When December 1998 ended, Ross-Roden Funeral Services had proudly and humbly served a grand total of four families.
“Each one of those families taught me something different, something unique which I reflect on 25 years later,” Ross-Roden said. “Through it all, ever present then, and ever present now, is God. If it had not been for the Lord on my side, where would I be? Where would I be?
“So, as I celebrate 25 years of Ross-Roden Funeral Services, I cannot do so without acknowledging the seed, the calling and the grace bestowed on me from our Heavenly Father,” Ross-Roden continued. “To God, I say thank you. Thank you, Lord. Thank you.”
One client told the ceremony that Ross-Roden “gives the most exemplary service.
“We thank you, we respect you, we love you and congratulate you,” she said. “You represent Black excellence from the beginning.”
Daniel, Jr., noted that his mother started “this business” on May 13, 1998, with God’s grace and blessings.
“It’s a passion that enable you to accomplish this business,” he said. “You have been a role model in my life. I’m glad to have that in me. I’m proud of you as a son.”