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Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff
2 min read
Clark sees parallels between today’s pandemic and 1918
The owner of Clark Funeral Home said he was flabbergasted when he thumbed through the pages of an old ledger book of funerals from 1918 to early-1919 and saw how many listed the cause of death as influenza.
“I was just shocked,” said David Clark, “the parallel between 1918 (when the deadly Spanish flu pandemic began infecting millions worldwide) and today.”
He said reading a recent article in the Lexington Herald-Leader about the number of influenza deaths recorded in the ledger books at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home during 1918, which described “how pandemic history repeats itself,” compelled him to get out his funeral home’s frayed ledger book from that year to see how the Spanish flu pandemic affected Woodford County.
From late-October 1918 to March 1919, influenza was cited as the cause of death in 26 of the 47 funerals handled by his family’s funeral home, Clark said.
The ledger entries were handwritten by his step-grandfather, D. R. Duell, who opened the funeral home in the downtown Versailles storefront now occupied by Pizza Hut in 1915, Clark said. He said Clark Funeral Home (then Duell-Clark Funeral Home) moved to its current location on Rose Hill Avenue in 1946.
It was on the front lawn of that location where Clark Funeral Home held a funeral with full military honors for George Clark Shelburne Jr. under a cloudless blue sky last Friday afternoon. The funeral was held here because Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Nicholasville isn’t currently able to provide full military honors to those who served, Clark said. He said social distancing guidelines were followed while still allowing Shelburne’s family to honor his service.
The Spanish flu pandemic “mirrors what’s happening today,” said Clark of the many changes in daily life, including how funerals are – and were – conducted. To limit the number of people attending a funeral to 10, only the closest relatives are allowed to attend, he said.
“It breaks my heart to watch families that are used to gathering at that time to say goodbye to someone very, very special in their life, and they can’t do it now,” Clark said. “So we’re having to come up with more creative ways for families to be able to say goodbye.” He said some funerals are being live-streamed so more family members can watch a service, while other families will wait to have a larger celebration of life when the social distancing guidelines are lifted.
At another recent funeral with military honors, people not allowed to get out of their vehicles to attend the service because of social distancing guidelines drove by the widow and spoke to her (at a safe distance) from their car windows, Clark said.
“And that,” he said, “was very moving.”