RIVERVIEW — "I love my job" is a common refrain.
But to hear someone say that about a job in the funeral industry might raise a few eyebrows.
"I know it sounds horrible to say you love your job in the funeral industry," said Stacy Adams, 46, "but it's knowing I'm here for someone at the worst time in their life, that I'm here to make it a little bit better."
For 24 years, Adams has lent that comfort, and on Sunday, she will credit her father for inspiring her career choice and thank him for being a great dad.
Adams joined her father, Mike Adams, in what she believes is her calling in the family business in 1990 at Adams and Jennings Funeral Home in Tampa after trying a few other jobs.
Adams has worked as the general manager at Serenity Meadows in Riverview for three years, overseeing the funeral home, crematory and cemetery. Prior to taking on that position, she worked alongside her father at Adams and Jennings, the oldest family-owned funeral home in the Tampa Bay area.
Even though she initially had misgivings about working with her dad every day — and her dad tried to dissuade her from pursuing that same career path he had chosen — the experience has far exceeded her expectations.
In fact, she enjoys what she does enough to earn recognition from state and national industry organizations. This year, she was elected to the board of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, a national organization of leaders working to improve the industry. Last summer, Adams became the first woman and the youngest recipient of the W. Clyde Lankford Distinguished Service Award by the Independent Funeral Directors of Florida.
"It's hard for people in the industry to know what that means, but it's such a huge honor I can't even put it into words. That they think of me this way and picked me out of so many deserving people in the industry, people I have looked up to as mentors."
Adams' approach to running Serenity Meadows is to treat every single person as if they are family. It comes through in her attention to detail and the way she talks about her clients.
"When our families come in here, it's their worst day. No matter what is happening to us here, it's nothing compared to what these families are dealing with that day," Adams said. "We want to make sure what we're doing is done right."
Jennifer Allman, Serenity Meadows' marketing manager, admires Adams' approach to the business enough to declare she never wants to work for anyone else.
"She has a big heart and it shows," Allman said. "When someone deceased comes through the back door, she wants us to know the whole story about the family. In this business, it's a rarity to know what is going on with the family, but this is someone's grandmother or son coming here and she wants us to be able to help them."
Yet part of the challenge of managing a business like Serenity Meadows is acknowledging that Adams' actual family, including her 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, must make sacrifices, a big reason Mike Adams encouraged Stacy Adams and her sister to pursue other careers. According to Adams, her career is much more than a job; it's a life that includes sacrificing Thanksgiving dinner or canceling a family vacation when duty calls.
"I didn't want either of my daughters in this business. It's a tough, tough business. It's tough on you, your family and your friends because you devote a lot of time to it," Mike Adams said. "She found what she was made for and she enjoys dealing with families and the public. I'm proud of her."
Among the many additional challenges of being the general manager at Serenity Meadows is the constant battle against public misconceptions. The biggest misconception, according to Stacy Adams, is that funeral homes take advantage of people by preying on their losses and charging outlandish amounts of money. Another is that funeral directors are cold-hearted and desensitized to death.
"I've been all over this state, and that couldn't be further from the truth. We are compassionate and sympathetic, and feel for everyone who walks through the door," said Adams, who views her job as a form of ministry in a rapidly changing world that does not place the same priority on church, values and traditions as in years past.
Adams said trust is the key to doing her job successfully. She urges families to find a funeral director they are comfortable with because there is not much time to plan a funeral, and it only happens one time.
Shannan D. Powell can be reached at [email protected]