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Coming full circle
Funeral home purchase fulfills dream for Deal
Deal - Bird Hodges Web.jpg
Curt Deal, left, shakes hands with Bird Hodges following the Closing of Deal's purchase of Hodges-Moore Funeral Home on Highway 80 East in Statesboro. - photo by DeWAYNE GRICE/Staff

When Curt Deal began working at Hodges-Turner Funeral home in 1992, just two years out of high school, he couldn’t have known that, eventually, he would return as the owner. 

But now some 25-plus years later, that’s just what’s happening. With a name change to “Deal Funeral Directors,” the longstanding funeral home on Highway 80 East just returned to being a locally-owned funeral home.

The funeral home opened in 1929 as Barnes Funeral Home, and moved to that location on Highway 80 in 1974, becoming Barnes-Hodges Funeral Home, owned by E.W. “Buddy” Barnes and J. Bird Hodges. In 1978 the funeral home name changed to Barnes-Hodges-Turner with the addition of partners Lee Barnes and Barry Turner. 

After a tornado leveled the funeral home in 1984, it was rebuilt the following year and renamed Hodges-Turner with the chapel being named for the Barnes Family.

Deal’s part-time job at Hodges-Turner Funeral home was meant to help defray costs while he studied at Georgia Southern University to earn a marketing degree.

“The funeral business becomes your life,” he said. “You’re going on calls at all hours, so it was hard to take classes.” 

Deal said he had to halt his coursework, but by then, his career direction had changed. 

“Soon after I started there, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “I felt a calling to do funeral work.” 

Deal moved to Atlanta for a year and a half for an apprenticeship, graduating with an Associate Degree in Funeral Service Science from Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Science. One month after graduation, Deal, who graduated from Statesboro High School, married his high school sweetheart, Jenni Groover.

Deal continued work at Hodges-Turner after returning to Statesboro, but when the funeral home was purchased by Service Corporation International, based out of Texas, Deal decided he didn’t want to work in the corporate world. 

He moved his family to North Augusta briefly, to work at Stephen D. Posey Funeral Home. 

“It was a good job, but it wasn’t home,” said Deal. “It was another step of faith to come back home, taking a cut in pay, but Statesboro was home.”

Deal worked for a year with Jake A. Futch Funeral Home and then took a traveling sales position with Dodge Chemical Company, serving funeral homes throughout northeast Georgia and South Carolina. 

“For 26 years, I have dedicated my career to funeral service,” said Deal. “My first 12 years were in the day to day operations of a funeral home. The Dodge Company opportunity allowed me to build relationships with a broader group of funeral service professionals.”

Though Deal excelled and enjoyed his time with that company, he missed being able to serve others in Statesboro like he had previously with local funeral home work. He found a way to make that happen. 

“When you travel a lot during the week, you feel a disconnect. I wanted a way to plug back into the community.”

With the support of his family – wife, Jenni, and children Hannah, Harrison and Halli – Deal chose to run for office and was elected in 2017 to serve as Bulloch County Commissioner for Seat 2A. He also continued serving as a deacon and in the media ministry at Statesboro First Baptist Church, as well as with the United Way Board of Directors.

Still, he felt something missing.

“This journey (with Dodge Company) allowed me to gain a wealth of insight and knowledge that I began to envision implementing in my own funeral home. Serving others has been my career. I looked around the room once at a sales meeting, and most of those at the table were much senior to me. I realized that I didn’t want to be on the road traveling for work when I was 70.”

Deal researched a number of options that would enable him to return to Statesboro to work, and admits that his desire was to open his own funeral home. 

“I missed the interaction with families, serving families during their time of greatest need.”

He also admitted a certain amount of trepidation with the idea of starting a funeral home business from the ground-up. He looked into other work options in Statesboro. 

“At one point, while in my truck after checking out another business opportunity, I heard God’s voice say to me, ‘Stop running.’ I told Jenni that it was time to seriously pursue building a funeral home.” 

Before any of those plans were finalized, however, Deal found out about SCI’s announcement to sell the funeral home where his career first began, currently named Hodges-Moore Funeral Home, at the same location on Highway 80 where he worked shortly after high school. 

“We’re thrilled about owning Deal Funeral Directors,” said Deal.  “I’ve come full-circle from my time there in ’94. I’m home now, and I look forward to serving the families of Statesboro and Bulloch County.”

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