365 Days of Grief & Healing

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History

 

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The Blackwell Memorial home has been located at 21 North Main St in Pennington for its entire history. Nathaniel Reeder Blackwell, better known as N.R. or Nat, founded the N.R. Blackwell Funeral Service in 1881. The same year he married Carrie Baldwin and they moved into their new home, with Carrie's mother, Hannah Primmer Baldwin. N.R. also operated a Cabinet Maker and Upholster's Shop, as was the custom with many early undertakers. This shop was across the street from the funeral home on the second floor of the building that served as the fire house at that time.

 

N.R. was an avid fisher man who was renowned for his jokes and quick sense of humor. He operated the family business until his sudden death in 1923. His widow, Carrie, continued the business with the assistance of Farley Hunt of Titusville, who acted as her licensed manager.

 

The Blackwells had three children, a son Lorraine and two daughters Ethel I. and Elizabaeth S. Lorraine operated a separate funeral home in Hopewell, six miles north of Pennington until his untimely death in 1914 at the age of 30. The funeral home in Hopewell later became the Rorer Funeral Home and then the Thurland Farr Funeral Home.

 

"N.R." and Carrie's daughter, Elizabeth Blackwell, became a Registered Nurse in 1924 and in 1929 she married Raymond Deremer. The couple had a daughter whom they named Elizabeth. For all of her life she has been known as "Betty." Raymond died in 1933. Soon after her husband's death, Elizabeth defied tradition and enrolled in the New York School of Embalming and Restorative Art. She was licensed to practice as a funeral director and embalmer in New Jersey in 1935.

 

Upon the death of her mother (Carrie) in 1936, Elizabeth took upon herself the monumental tasks of continuing the funeral business, caring for her young daughter and erecting a new funeral home, all in the middle of the Great Depression. It was almost unheard of for a woman to be running a professional practice in those days, which made Elizabeth's success even more remarkable.

 

The new funeral home was completed in steps, the back part of the Victorian house, built in 1847 was demolished, leaving the front intact. The new building was completed and dedicated in 1938. It was furnished with antiques collected by N.R. and except for minor improvements remains today as it was dedicated in 1938.

 

Elizabeth remained active in the business until her death in 1972. Her daughter Betty attended college in Vermont . She married John E. Davis of Rochester, NY in 1950. "Betty" and "Jack" both attended mortuary school in New York. Jack received his Mortuary License in 1956 and Betty in 1957.

 

After Elizabeth's death, Jack and Betty operated the family business together until his passing in 1983. Since that time Betty has carried on the family tradition, serving Pennington and Hopewell Valley with dignity and compassion.