For five generations, the McAfee family has run the funeral home that bears the founding McAfee’s namesake: Thomas McAfee. Today, Jay McAfee, 29, serves as the chief finance officer at Thomas McAfee Funeral Homes, which was established in 1913. But don’t think he only deals with the finances. McAfee also assists across departments since joining the family business more than two years ago, after graduating from Clemson University and spending some years in banking in Charlotte, North Carolina.
What’s the best part about your job?
The best part is knowing that I have the opportunity every day to make an impact in people’s lives. We help a lot of families every year as a company. And so, whether I’m working directly with a family or we’re working on the business, it’s a really good feeling, having that sense of purpose that extends so far beyond any personal ambitions.
What about the worst?
I’m basically always working. It’s a 24-7 operation, and it’s very unpredictable. If someone passes away at 3 o’clock in the morning, then we, as a business, have to be staffed and prepared to respond.
What inspired you to pursue this line of work?
My family has been in funeral service for five generations. My great-great-grandfather started the business. Ultimately, I just felt this sense of obligation to the community and to our staff to keep the business in the family. I felt that desire to do something that had a real, tangible impact on people’s lives. When it’s been in the family for that long, you just feel this really strong sense of duty to continue.
What’s your typical day at work like?
I handle a lot of the business responsibilities — things like managing relationships with suppliers and other third parties as well as working on how the business is running, behind the scenes, all with a goal in mind that we want to create this first-class, seamless experience for the family on the front end. One day I could go from meeting with our casket supplier to meeting with our prepaid insurance company … [or] I could be checking in with families, just checking in to make sure that they’re pleased with everything.
What is something a lot of people get wrong about your job?
I think it’s hard for many people to understand how much is done behind the scenes. One, in the context of running the business itself — simply arranging and carrying out a funeral service for a family. I think it’s hard for people who aren’t in the business to really understand how much goes on to make all that happen. The second is that I think people have a lot of misconceptions about the people who work in funeral service. In my experience, almost everyone in funeral service does so because they’re motivated by helping people. I think there are very few life events that elicit a need for help more than experiencing a death. For people who work in this business, there’s nothing more rewarding than knowing that you’ve helped a family through what a lot of times is the hardest time of their life, that you changed the trajectory of their grief.
A Day in the Life is an occasional series profiling the people in our community doing the ordinary – and extraordinary – jobs that need doing.
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