JEAN TARBETT HARDIMAN
HUNTINGTON -- The Fred Kitchen family has joined Henson Mortuary to help carry on the independent, family business for years to come.
With more than 20 years in the funeral industry, most recently as a salesman and consultant with Batesville Casket Co., Kitchen said it was a great opportunity to get back to the grassroots part of the business.
"I just realized that's where my heart is, being on the front lines and serving families," said Kitchen, a 1986 graduate of the former Huntington East High School who also has worked for Beard Mortuary in Huntington and Morris Funeral Home in Wayne County.
Henson Mortuary is located on East Pea Ridge Road in East Huntington.
Fred's wife, school teacher Amber Kitchen, also is in on the partnership with Charles Henson, who said he thinks it's a great opportunity for everybody. Henson, 73, has had two bouts with cancer in recent years and said he's not sure if it's going to come back a third time.
"My wife (Loretta) passed away eight years ago and my kids live away," Henson said. "This was an opportunity for both of us, and I think it's a good thing for everybody concerned.
"Fred was one of our suppliers, and we had a good relationship with him. We wanted to keep it family-owned, and independently owned. I had been approached by a couple people with corporate ties, and I didn't think that was the thing for us."
Henson Mortuary has been in business since 1972.
"The community has been very good to us. They've accepted us," Henson said. "We came up here 40 years ago and didn't know a soul, and the community has been exceptionally good to us."
Kitchen said he hopes to keep those ties to the community strong. Just last weekend, he and his family helped with the Roger Kyle Memorial 10K Trail Run at Barboursville Park, sponsoring water stops and taking tags from runners as they crossed the finish line.