It had been a long time since there was a funeral procession with a horse-drawn hearse in Northumberland County, but there was one Wednesday, as Deloris Walker was laid to rest at First Baptist Church near Heathsville.
Deloris was not from Northumberland County but was the wife of the Reverend Randolph Meade Walker who is part of a large clan raised right down the road from First Baptist. His five brothers and sisters were on hand to follow the hearse from his brother, Alonzo’s, house on the homeplace down the road to the cemetery.
Meade and Deloris lived their married life in Memphis where Meade pastored three different churches. Although not from Northumberland County, Deloris wanted her final resting place to be with the Walkers at First Baptist, Meade said last week. She had also wanted the old-time horse drawn hearse.
Meade said he called Levander Toulson about finding a horse drawn hearse and Levander put him in touch with Phillip J. “Ricky” Haynie, both relatives. Ricky referred Meade to Jim Hundley, now of Chesterfield but originally of Northumberland, who has one. Hundley brought his large black hearse for the ceremony. He also brought his pair of big, white, thoroughbred-percheron draft horses to pull the hearse.
Hundley said his hearse was made in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1890.
With a drummer walking ahead of the hearse tapping out a slow beat, the family walked behind it as Hundley drove it, accompanied by Tom Beatley of Horsehead, who served as the hearse’s groom. Both wore the old-time undertaker’s grey cape coats and top hats.
The morning was foggy. Entirely appropriate for a funeral march.
At the graveside, Dr. John Fontaine read scripture and prayed. Mackenzie Walker recited Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and Meade Walker performed the libation and committal.