Funeral director remembered for professionalism, longevity

Nov. 13, 2012 @ 06:51 PM

Bob Safrit, whose name was synonymous with professionalism and compassion in the funeral service in High Point during his 64-year career, died Tuesday at the age of 85.

Safrit worked for Sechrest Funeral Service from 1948 until his retirement in June of this year. Known as the city’s longest-serving individual funeral director, he was widely regarded as one of the giants of his profession.
“He was the consummate funeral director. He just paid attention to every detail. Everything had to be exactly right. He instilled that in all the people who worked there,” said Ken McDowell, a semi-retired funeral director who worked with Safrit at Sechrest for 25 years. “He cared about people. He was definitely a people person. That was foremost in his thoughts. He never was as concerned about the financial part of it as he was about satisfying the client.”
Safrit started in the funeral business right out of high school and, after a stint in the Army, obtained his funeral director’s license and was hired by Sechrest in 1948 when it was located on N. Main Street.
He eventually became president of the firm and became well-known in the industry statewide, serving as president of the N.C. Funeral Directors Association during the 1980s. The association’s current executive director, Larry Stegall, was a longtime friend who recalled Safrit as a problem-solver who helped the industry adapt to several business challenges through the years.
“He took over Sechrest and made it what it is,” Stegall said. “He exhibited a poise and sense of demeanor and placid calm you seldom see in people.”
Safrit and his wife, Betty, had three children and three grandchildren. He continued to work most days until his retirement, even though he was somewhat limited by his health, using a cane to help him walk. Family members said Safrit had struggled with health problems only recently since his retirement and died at his home surrounded by loved ones.
“He was loving, caring, kind and a family man. He loved people and loved his job. He was a pillar of the community,” said his daughter, Jayn Swaim of High Point.
One of his sons, Dr. Hal Safrit of Chapel Hill, recalled that his father had tremendous rapport with the High Point community.
“When I was growing up, if you went out just to get a loaf of bread or milk with him at the store, it would turn out to be a three-hour trip because he knew everybody there,” he said. “He made it a point to get to know people. That’s probably what made him tick more than anything else.”
Safrit estimated at the time of his retirement that he may have attended as many as 10,000 funerals over the course of his career. Colleagues recalled that he developed a loyal following from customers.
“Even to this day, people will stop by and ask about Bob and talk about how Bob helped them with their mother’s funeral or something else he did for them,” said Ron Horton, a Sechrest funeral director who worked with Safrit for about 15 years.
Safrit’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday at First Presbyterian Church in High Point.
pkimbrough@hpe.com | 888-3531