Upper East Tennessee Funeral Directors Association
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David W. Mathes, a native of Erwin, TN and a son of Rex S. and Linda J. Mathes of Erwin.
David has been a resident of Johnson City since 1987.He is a 1985 graduate of Unicoi County High School where he was a member of the 1984 State Champion Baseball team.David attended Roane State Community College and East Tennessee State University on baseball scholarships.He attended Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science at Xavier University, Cincinnati, and received an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Funeral Service Education from Jefferson State Community College, Birmingham, Al. in 1995.David was a former member of First Christian Church, Erwin, and a member of Unaka Avenue Baptist Church, Johnson City.He is a member and formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Johnson City Civitan Club.David is serving on the Board of Directors of Blue Ridge Donor Services.He is currently president of the Upper East Tennessee Funeral Directors Association.He is a Tennessee licensed funeral director, embalmer and insurance agent employees with Appalachian Funeral Home since 1987.David was named manager of the firm in January of 1999.
With nearly 29 years of work in all aspects of funeral services, David Mathes has seen a lot of bad things, but he's seen a lot of good things, too.
He knows what the general public thinks about people like himself, who will pick up the recently deceased and carry out the necessary services all the way through the embalming and preparation stages, that he's either cold or calloused, but he assures them that couldn't be further from the truth.
In fact, Mathes, who works for the family-owned Johnson City businessAppalachian Funeral Home and Cremation Services, said he doesn't think people like that are in the business.
"That's not how it is at all," he said.
"I've cried with a lot of families."
Long ago, Mathes made a promise to himself that he would give these frequently grieving groups of families the best experience they can have under the given circumstances.
"These families trust us and they deserve the best of us," Mathes said.
And that's what he sets out to do everyday.
Mathes' job isn't an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday job, by any means.
A reality of the world is that people die and someone needs to immediately take care of the bodies.
Mathes is that man, constantly on call, throwing on a suit in the middle of the night to drive to a hospital, residence or nursing home to pick someone.
If there's a crime involved, the body will first go to East Tennessee State University's James H. Quillen College of Medicine for an autopsy.
Hundreds of times in his career has Mathes made the drive to Quillen for that reason.
"You go and you're not knowing what you're going to see," Mathes said.
His interest in this line of work came when he was playing baseball for ETSU just out of high school.
He had a friend who was living above the former location of the Appalachian Funeral Home - where Wok and Hibachi is today - and answering phones for the business.
Mathes took an interest and eventually found himself working as an apprentice for Appalachian.
From there, he went on to Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama, studying in the school's funeral services education program.
This required him to travel to Alabama for two days of classes per week and come back to Johnson City to work full-time, but it was a big stepping stone for what he does now.
Mathes' 7-year-old son knows what kind of work his father does and even comes into the funeral home on occasion.
Though his schedule is up in the air, Mathes still finds time to coach and umpire his son's baseball games as well as be an active member of First Christian Church.
If it was up to him, Mathes said he wouldn't push his son into the same line of work, citing the schedule and sometimes horrific things he sees, including exposure to contagious diseases, but he also wouldn't stop him if that's the direction he wanted to go.
This occupation has a great deal of burnout, Mathes said, with a lot of people unable to handle the work required of them as well as cases of post traumatic stress disorder, which is something he admits he's experienced.
Keeping a level head is a skill Mathes said he's developed over time.
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