AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – For many decades, the Golden Blocks were the heartbeat of the Black community.
Here Black owned businesses, churches and schools thrived and provided the foundation for what is now known as the Laney Walker-Bethlehem area.
Today, that heartbeat is no longer strong.
Most of the businesses are gone.. except for W.H. Mays Mortuary.
Started in 1922, the original owners are no longer living but Mrs. Raye Mays, the widow of previous owner Willie Mays, keeps the business alive.
“You know Willie passed in November of 2020 and he had a plan. He was a man with a plan so he always had a plan and he told me exactly what his wishes were for the funeral home,” explains Mays.
Those plans included making sure the doors of Mays Mortuary remained open for the community.
“When his grandfather started the funeral home in 1922 after he passed his wife Ethel took over, after Willie’s dad passed his Mom Carrie took over, and after Willie passed I’m in charge now. So, that’s the lineage and history of the funeral home.”
Now open for 101 years, she says W. H. Mays Mortuary still stands on a strong foundation of dedication to the local community.
“He prided himself, as did his father and grandfather before him, on being the premiere funeral home in the CSRA. I still believe that we are that. Of course, you have to change with the times, so we’re doing lots of renovations here at the funeral home that we’re really happy about and proud of because we plan on staying in the heart of Augusta.”
She says it all starts with providing care for the clients.
“We’re here to hold your hand through the process. Lots of times for families it’s their first loss. They have no idea what to do. They’re grieving and trying to make plans and arrangements at the same time. So, we’re here to walk you through the process and to be there for you after the process is over.”
For this longtime educator, nurturing is second nature.
“There are so many parallels that I could tell you about between Principalship and doing what I do here. So, actually the two careers marry themselves together.”
Although the Golden Blocks heartbeat has weakened.. Raye Mayes is making sure the pulse never dies.
Meanwhile, she encourages other women to consider this profession which is a lifeline for others in their time of need.
“It is a career that that you don’t necessarily that you don’t think about. It’s probably nowhere in your top 10. But, it’s a great profession and it affords you the opportunity to meet a lot of people, if you like meeting people, it affords you the opportunity to help people. Support people in their time of need. Everybody has a personal experience with death. It’s just a great profession. I love it,” she concludes.