MEET OUR DIRECTORS | Leak and Sons Funeral Homes | Chicago Illinois Funeral Homes | Country Club Hills Illinois (2024)

Owner/Director
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’“
– Erma Bombeck

The daughter of Charles L. and Marie Whigham, Carolyn was born in Newark, New Jersey. Her courageous spirit and determination came early in life as she was one of only ten (10) children of color matriculating at Vailsburg High School from 1962 until 1966. The following year, Carolyn enrolled at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia majoring in Business Administration. She was recognized for outstanding leadership being elected Ms. R.O.T.C. (and so began her moniker as the Little General).

After marrying in 1974, Carolyn moved to Los Angeles, California and began a successful career in real estate. Bennett and Bennett Associates soon became the largest black owned property management company in Los Angeles earning them a feature in Black Enterprise Magazine. Not only was the business growing but more importantly the birth of both children, Steveland and Kara-Lynn. In 1984, after her divorce the family moved back to Newark where Carolyn made the decision to enroll in the American Academy of McAllister School of Mortuary Science graduating in 1986. Upon graduation, she received the Thomas Quinn Award for the Most Outstanding Student and so began her esteemed career. She has been a NJ state funeral director for over 27 years.

Carolyn worked side by side with her father for many, many years learning the management side of the business and the “art” of embalming. She was inspired by her father to travel to Egypt to study the Egyptian Art of Embalming because the business was constantly evolving. He never wanted her to become complacent with just knowing one methodology. In 1993 when Charles L. Whigham made his transition, Carolyn assumed ownership continuing the legacy and preparing the third generation. Steveland and Kara who are also licensed funeral directors.

Families who walk through the doors of the Whigham Funeral Home are always assured that their loved ones would be treated with love and respect because the business of dying has more to do with the living. Carolyn firmly believes in leading by example so she too meets with families; embalms; answers phones and directs funerals. Featured in the New York Times and most recently Star-Ledger reporter Barry Carter wrote, “Her style has been praised the world over and even caught the attention of a funeral director in Liberia, who wants her to start a branch in his country.”

Carolyn is an accomplished speaker, hosting seminars on “How to Conduct High Profile Funerals” that were accredited by the New Jersey State Board of Mortuary Science with attendees from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. She is a member of St. James A.M.E. Church; Bethany Chapter #43 Order of Eastern Stars; PHA member of Essex, Hudson and Union Funeral Directors Association; Garden State Funeral Directors Association and serves on the New Jersey Board for the Statutes of Women.

Carolyn credits her philanthropic efforts for the betterment of the community to her father who founded City National Bank, the first black owned bank in New Jersey. She has partnered with the Newark YMCA to create housing for the chronically homeless because everyone should have a place to call their own. Although private time is often non-existent, she chooses to celebrate her birthday and Christmas with the homeless, inviting hundreds to dinner complete with transportation and gifts. Her dedication comes with its share of sacrifice having to cancel vacations with her partner of more than 16 years Terry Whigham; missing her children’s games and interrupted dinner engagements. But according to Carolyn, “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass…It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

Over 6,000 funerals including names you probably know like Sarah Vaughn, Whitney Houston, John Houston (Whitney’s father), Congressman Donald Payne, Lance Owens (Queen Latifah’s brother), Emily Miles (Newark fashion designer) and names you may not know like Louise Agnes Nelson (Newark resident), Edward Stafford (Newark resident) and thousands more. Every family receives the same gold service whether they’re the very rich or the very rich in heart. Along with Steve and Kara, she is the mother of Aazim, Chastity, Chad and Nyle. Grandmother of 9 who affectionately call her, “Spice.”

MEET OUR DIRECTORS | Leak and Sons Funeral Homes | Chicago Illinois Funeral Homes | Country Club Hills Illinois (2024)
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