In memoriam: Chenault was passionate, dedicated to his business

Published 12:23 pm Monday, April 30, 2018

There are jobs, there are careers and there are callings.

James B. “J.B.” Chenault was called to be a funeral director.

Chenault, who founded Chenault Brothers Funeral Home in 1972, passed away Wednesday at age 83 after a brief illness.

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Chenault’s daughter Beverly Emanuel said J.B. followed his father into the business.

“My grandfather used to dig graves” by hand for local funeral homes, Emanuel said. “Dad started working at the places Granddaddy worked, washing cars and things. One day they asked him to drive.”

Forty-five years ago, Chenault opened the funeral home and named it for his brothers John and Fred. Through the years, Chenault’s sister Mary Rose was involved in the business for a time, and now Emanuel is running the business.

“He was always trying to enlist the rest of the family to carry it on and it’s mainly just me,” Emanuel said.

Chenault always had side jobs taking people to doctor appointments and things in between funerals, she said. He also owned funeral homes in Maysville and Mount Sterling for a few years, she said. He also responded to coroner calls for a number of years.

“He loved it,” she said. “He said ‘I don’t care if its an animal or a person, you put them away dignified and you put them away professionally.’”

Over the course of 46 years, Emanuel estimated he had performed thousands of funerals.

“I was actually educated for it, but he truly had a passion for it. He had a calling for it.”

Emanuel said her father also helped a number of other funeral directors get started by letting them use his facility.

“They would come to him and use our facility to get started,” Emanuel said. “He wanted to help people.”

In 2016, Chenault was honored by the Winchester Black History and Heritage Society for his service to Winchester and Clark County.

“He worked as an orderly with the hospital… and worked with the funeral homes,” Jane Burnam said at the time. “He started (the funeral home) at a little house and progressed. His passion was for the people.”

“Chenault Bros. Funeral Home has buried a lot of people and never for paid for it, and it’s a community thank you day,” committee member Joyce Morton said at the time.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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