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Weekly 150

Penick Funeral Home (Part II)

Charlie and Betty Lou

Posted 12/24/19

Charlie Penick married Betty Lou McDonald on Wednesday evening, November 27, 1935, at Reverend G. L. Johnson’s Presbyterian Church parsonage in McKenzie. The witnesses were Guy Robert Kirk and …

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Weekly 150

Penick Funeral Home (Part II)

Charlie and Betty Lou


Charlie Penick married Betty Lou McDonald on Wednesday evening, November 27, 1935, at Reverend G. L. Johnson’s Presbyterian Church parsonage in McKenzie. The witnesses were Guy Robert Kirk and Nelle Moody. As newlyweds, their first home was the Virginia Hotel in downtown McKenzie where Charlie had lived before the marriage.

It was noted when Charlie and Betty Lou lived in the hotel, the rooms did not have air conditioning. Charlie bought a large block of ice and rigged an electric fan to blow across the ice to cool the room.

In April 1937, he bought the R. B. Moore home at Magnolia and McTyeire Avenue from the Commercial Bank of McKenzie for $2,250.00 in cash and moved his business to the location. A year later, Charlie bought out Joe and changed the name to Penick Funeral Home.

Buford Dinkins provided the following anecdote found in the 1986 archives of The McKenzie Banner:

Back then the northwest part of town, down where Deck’s Garage used to be, was called Reynolds Town. We didn’t have a police car and we had this disturbance call down there, so some of the law got in the car with Mr. Charlie Penick, who was the undertaker around here then. Well, when the car came rolling up to the place where the disturbance was, everybody ran off except one old crippled man. They arrested him, and when he went before the judge the judge asked him what was going on. He said nothing was, and then the judge asked him why did everybody run off if nothing was going on. The man told the judge, ‘Your honor, when the law comes up with an undertaker it’s time to run.’

On September 4, 1938, their first child, Charlene, was born in the Penick Funeral Home. One year and one day later, on September 5, 1939, their second daughter, Jenny Lou, was born there also. Betty Lou and Charlie didn’t let the addition of two children affect their business.

Funeral directing was a great love for Charlie but he developed migraine headaches. When he was incapacitated with a headache, Betty Lou would bed the two daughters in the back of the ambulance on the cot and take the call. As the headaches increased, Charlie was forced to retire from that occupation and to farm full time.

Charlie was a certified surveyor which was an asset when selling grave lots for the cemetery association. He continued to actively pursue the skill after his retirement from the funeral home business.

He was active in civic and service organizations, a charter member of the McKenzie Rotary Club; served on the City of McKenzie 1937 Flood Relief Committee to care for flood victims; and was committee head to organize Mule Day in 1937, a resounding success, which brought together large numbers of mules and buyers.

He was a member of the McKenzie First Methodist Church for 52 years where he served as a member of the Administrative Board. He served two terms as an alderman for the City of McKenzie in the late 1930s; he was elected as a magistrate from the 4th district of Carroll County and was active in the Carroll County Historical Association. He was a director of the Mt. Olivet Cemetery Association when it was organized in 1946 and served in various offices until his death in 1977.

When he sold the Penick Funeral Home to Jack Brummitt in February 1945 he paid $4,300 for the Lucas home across from the First Methodist Church on McTyeire Street a few houses from the funeral home and moved his family there.

In April 1946, he sold this home to Dr. Edwards for $7,500 and moved the family to a farm he had purchased on Bells Store Road, on the old Gleason Highway. The property was adjacent to Betty Lou’s mother, Jennie Bell McDonald.

In February of 1946, shortly after moving the family to the farm and in the process of renovating the old two-story farmhouse, a fire destroyed virtually all the family’s possessions. The Penicks were forced to live with Betty Lou’s mother in two rooms of her house until Charlie bought the Curtis Moody house on Magnolia Street in December of 1952.

Charlie continued to farm the Huntingdon Highway and the Bells Store Road farms until his health failed. He sold the Huntingdon Highway farm in the 1970s and began to keep only cattle on the Bells Store Road farm. He eventually sold the cattle as his health further deteriorated.

After the death of Charlie’s mother in 1946, his brother John 1951, sister Eliza in 1957, and sister Mary in 1967 the three remaining brothers agreed to keep the property in the family. Through the years shares were interchanged by the brothers.

Charlie died of congestive heart failure on Friday, July 1, 1977, and was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in McKenzie, Tenn. Services were held in the old Penick Funeral Home (Brummitt Funeral).

Charlie was remembered as a quiet, unassuming, gentleman who loved to remember past days and possessed an amazing memory for dates, names and places. Many stories were told by older citizens in McKenzie of the good deeds he did for others. In Charlie’s personal papers were records of payment of funeral expenses in the form of a hog, a stack of lumber, an old T-model Ford, etc. He showed where he wrote off hundreds of dollars in accounts receivable.

Dr. Marvin Downing, Associate Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Martin, wrote in an article about Charlie “Along life’s way we never know the impression we make on the people we meet. Mr. Charlie Penick made a lasting impression for good on the people he met. He was one of the most knowledgeable men in this part of the county on the history of the Tri-County area. His memory for places, events and names was remarkable. In his business as a funeral director, he had a special compassion for the people he served and is remembered for the kindness shown to everyone. Mr. Charlie was a great man, we are honored to have had him as a member of the Historical Society and as a friend.”

On a personal note, thank you Jenny for all the research and information you provided for this story. Your family’s story is that greatly needed to be recorded in this series of articles. I knew very little the family’s information until recently but with your help I learned so much.

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Rotary Dist. 6760, Asst. Governor

WestStar Class of 2019

P: 731.352.3323

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com

Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.


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