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Daughter works to carry on father’s legacy

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BY JULIE TURNER
Special to The Independent

When you step inside the front door of the Collierville Funeral Home, Carla Swindoll sits at a large desk to your left. And a portrait of her father, T. Carl Rutledge, is to your right.
“I just love looking at his picture every day,” Swindoll said. “He makes me smile.”
Swindoll works as a receptionist at the funeral home where her father was the funeral director for more than 50 years. He retired in 2010 and passed away at the age of 87 in 2012.
Before her current position at the funeral home, Swindoll worked in the banking industry for about 39 years.
“I was in banking all my life and got totally burned out,” she said. “I thought when this opportunity came about, ‘I want to do this to make my Daddy proud.’”
“But I think it’s blessed my heart more than anything else,” she added. “I never thought I would do something like this – never dreamed it.”
Swindoll grew up in the funeral business. Her family, which includes her parents and an older brother, lived near the funeral home on the Town Square at first.

Carla Swindoll stands next to a portrait of her late father, Carl Rutledge.

Carla Swindoll stands next to a portrait of her late father, Carl Rutledge.

“When I was around 10 years old, I played hide and seek in the caskets with my best friend who lived next door,” she said. “It’s what I knew so nothing bothered me but Daddy didn’t bring his work home, either.”
In 1974, the family moved when the funeral home moved to its current location at 534 W. Poplar Ave. The Rutledge family lived on the backside of the building.
“My old bedroom is now my office,” said Swindoll, who lived there until she got married a couple of years later.
Swindoll loved her childhood and enjoys looking back on it.
“That’s when you knew all your neighbors and did things together,” she said. “When I was a kid, I walked to every house in Collierville, and I knew them all.”
The Collierville Funeral Home does approximately 200 funerals and visitations a year.
Swindoll’s job includes organizing the visitations, greeting people and helping the director as much as she can.
“I try to be as much help as I can be,” Swindoll said. “I move flowers; I do it all.”
Tharen Haley is the location manager of the Collierville Funeral Home. He believes Swindoll’s personality is a great asset in her role.
“She has a very caring attitude, loves people and cares for people,” Haley said. “These are all traits that you need to have in this business, and it is genuine with her.”
Swindoll’s favorite part of her job is the visitations. Like her father, Swindoll has lived in Collierville her entire life and her relationship with the people in town is extremely valuable to those families going through a difficult time.
“I am a people person; I really feel like I found my calling – to help people through that grieving process,” she said. “Now I know why my Daddy stayed in this business so long – he loved it, too.”
“They see me, they know me, and they feel at home,” Swindoll added. “Someone told me recently it was so good to have someone here that they know and could trust.”
Despite how much she loves her job, certain moments never get any easier.
“The most difficult part is when the people first see their loved one laying in that casket,” she said. “It’s tough.”
“But I like working here because I love carrying on my Daddy’s legacy,” she added. “To know my Daddy was to love him – he was the best!”

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