When parents become our employers, our perception of them changes. For the DeBaptistes, it’s for the better.
Originally published in “Family Owned & Operated.”
The DeBaptiste name is a well-known one in West Chester, and that’s important to the family members who work in the family funeral home business.
Presently, those family members include three generations: founder (and formal West Chester mayor) Dr. Clifford DeBaptiste—who started it with his late wife, Inez, in 1954—their daughter Lillian, and her niece, Elizabeth.
The family business expanded in 2008 to include a reception center, Milestone Events, where family members and friends can gather for a reception before or after a service.
According to Lillian, one of the most profound things about working with family was learning to view her parents as people, and not just parents.
“Sometimes, we view our parents forever through the eyes of a child: working with my parents gave me a more 360-degree view of them.”
Her dad makes it easy, Lillian said. “Ahead of his time, he has great regard for women in business. My mom was a teacher for 20 years and remarked once that if he passed away first, she wouldn’t know what to do. He said, ‘Okay, you’re going to mortuary science school.'”
“It was important to him to empower her,” she continued. “So at age 50, she went back to school, and I didn’t realize the profoundness of that at the time. Seeing my mother as a student at the same time I was one, and she was graduating with honors while I was struggling to keep up…well.”
As for her father, Lillian said, “Dad is 93 and is still hands-on and taking no prisoners. It’s a privilege to continue building on the legacy of this business.”