Pastor offers comfort in life and death as funeral director
By PAULINA MALEK
Jan. 27, 2018 at 12:04 a.m.
BURLINGTON, N.J. — For Timothy L. Hutton Sr., whether he's helping families as a church pastor or as a funeral director, it's all about providing comfort.
Hutton, who is celebrating his 10th year as pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Mount Holly, has joined forces with the Dennison-McGee Funeral Home, sharing its Beverly Road location as a new tenant.
T.L. Hutton Family and Friends Funeral Services, which Hutton operates with his wife, Dawn, opened Dec. 22.
The business moved into the Dennison-McGee space under what is called a "dual-registration" agreement, approved by the State Board of Mortuary Science of New Jersey, which allows two separate funeral homes to operate under one roof.
Hutton and Richard Dennison Sr., whose relationship spans 14 years, have become well-acquainted over the years. Hutton's reputation as a pastor helped solidify Dennison's decision to welcome him.
"I think it's very beneficial for his families, because he's very trustworthy. And as a pastor, he has over the years handled people that have lost loved ones. He's been in that role as a pastor assisting and comforting families, so it doubles the value to him (and) to the families that he serves," said Dennison, who opened his first funeral home more than 40 years ago.
This is not Hutton's first go-round in the funeral business.
For more than three decades, he worked at the W.R. Woody Funeral Home in Burlington City, beginning at age 18 under the late William R. Woody. Under Woody's direction, Hutton enrolled in a three-year training program at Mercer County Community College but had to discontinue his education. He re-enrolled after meeting his wife, and at the insistence of friends and family.
In 2006, Hutton became a licensed funeral director and took over as manager at W.R. Woody a year later. Hutton retired in September after 10 years, but he began searching for a new endeavor after encouragement from friends and family.
Before he settled on Dennison-McGee, he was offered the opportunity for a "dual registration" by Alison Perinchief Reinhard, manager at Perinchief Chapels in Mount Holly, and Bryan Horne, owner and director of Page Funeral Home in Burlington City.
"I think he innately knows how to care for people, and being a pastor, it carries over. There's a lot of relation. I consider being a funeral director as a calling in that same vein," Reinhard said.
The dual arrangement didn't happen because Perinchief and Page already had a lot of clientele, Hutton said, while Dennison operates mostly out of his Florence location, leaving the Beverly Road business available.
Dual registrations are not uncommon, according to Scott Gilligan, general counsel at the National Funeral Directors Association.
The arrangement can help owners share the financial burden of running a funeral business.
"Depending on the volume that the funeral home is doing, at a certain point if you're not doing the minimum number of calls, you're not going to be able to stay in business. So that's going to help you share the expense of operating," Gilligan said.
The association estimates that 86 percent of funeral homes in the United States are owned by families or individuals. Publicly traded companies own the remaining 14 percent.
The number of funeral homes in the U.S. last year was estimated at 19,322, according to the National Directory of Morticians Redbook, but the number has been slowly declining every year since at least 2004, due in part to the societal shift from burial to cremation.
Unlike his job as a funeral director, Hutton felt the call to preach at an early age.
He's the son of a pastor of a Methodist church in Pemberton Township, and when Hutton was a child, the family re-enacted church services in the home. The youngest of five brothers and sisters, he delivered sermons as his sisters sang and his mother played the organ.
"At the age of 10, I told my dad that I thought the Lord really wanted me to do this — not just play with it, but become serious. And it became serious to me. And so I did," Hutton said.
He gave his first official sermon at age 10 in his father's church.
The Huttons said operating a funeral home is just an extension of the care and compassion they have for people.
"Most of the time I tell people, 'When I leave you, all you have to do is put your obituary together and give me the clothes.' That's it. We'll take care of everything else," Hutton said.