When the Benboe family started the funeral home business, little did they realize that it would create a legacy that would service so many in Pensacola throughout the years.
Sunday afternoon, the community had the opportunity to celebrate with the staff and owner of Benboe’s with their eighty years of business.
Zoya Webster Phillips, owner, welcomed everyone to the celebration and kicked off the event with Ms. Jo Mayo singing “The Impossible Dream”.
The atmosphere was one of excitement and gratitude. As she sang to a standing room only crowd, it was apparent that Benboe’s had touched many lives-be it benevolence, scholarships, giving food, limousine service or handling the funeral arrangements-they had truly become an anchor in the community.
Al Martin, the pianist for the occasion, played as wonderfully as he always does accompanying many of the artists performing, including Mr. Kevin Cooper on guitar, Mr. James Johnson and Ms. Sarde’ Foster.
Also there to take part in the celebration was the Fellowship Mass Choir.
At one point Ms. Phillips called the other representing funeral homes forward-David Hawkins, Joe Morris Funeral Home, and Tracey Martin of Tracey Martin’ Funeral Home. “I just want to acknowledge these businesses,” she said. “We have to support our own. There’s no need for you to go anywhere else for your funeral needs.” She stated. “That’s right,” said Hawkins. There’s no reason to go anywhere else. We can provide any and everything you need. Come to one of us.” The crowd applauded and nodded in agreement.
As the program ended, everyone joined hands and sang the Negro Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Refreshments were served in the Reception hall.
On October 4, 1937, Mrs. Hattie Poe Benboe, Joseph Emmett Benboe, Sr., and Clarence “Cap” Benboe filed the necessary papers to open a funeral home in Pensacola, Florida. The doors of Benboe Funeral Home were opened for business at 416 West Wright Street in the City of Pensacola, Florida November 11, 1937 at eleven minutes after eleven o’clock a.m.
Mrs. Hattie Poe Benboe was the mother of Joe and Cap. The three became partners in the funeral business. Joe Benboe entered and graduated from John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science in Nashville, TN, and became the Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer. Cap became the General Manager. The funeral home provided employment for many young men in the community.
After the deaths of Mrs. Hattie Benboe, Joseph and Clarence (Cap) Benboe, Mrs. Inez Collins Benboe, the widow of Joe, and Mrs. Lillian Barnes Benboe, the widow of Cap became the owners of the funeral home. During the administration of Mrs. Inez and Mrs. Lillian several men were sent to school to pursue a degree in Mortuary Science. As most things do sometimes, some things will go wrong. At the time of internal problems Daniel Leslie Benboe, the son of Inez and Joe Benboe, a graduate of Florida A&M University had enrolled in Mehari Medical College aspiring to become a physician. He was summoned by his mother to withdraw from Mehari and enroll in John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science in Nashville, TN, for there was no one else who could really take over the family business and carry out the tradition that had been established by the family. Dan earned the degree in 1967 from John A. Gupton and then on to Miami Dade College of Mortuary Science.
After passing the Boards in record time (Dan’s Bachelor of Science degree as a double major in Chemistry & Physics) became a licensed funeral director and embalmer. Dan purchased the funeral home from his mother and aunt and remained the owner until his untimely death February 21, 2013.
Today, the funeral home is under the ownership of Zoya Wester-Phillips, who has been with the business for 40 years and is managing the funeral home with Daniel Leslie Benboe, II, a fourth generation.
“We are still continuing the legacy of our departed leaders which includes but not limited to serving this great community with pride, dignity, understanding, and compassion,” said Phillips. “The staff and management are thankful to God and Pensacola for their loyal support for the past 80 years for we know that without you there would be no us.”
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