We were blessed to join the Valentine family in the celebration of the 90th year celebration of Woods Valentine Mortuary. The business has gone through three transitions while keeping it in the family. They started as Woods Mortuary. Then Fred Valentine joined cousin Jimmy Woods in the business and it became Woods-Valentine Mortuary. Fred and his wife Arzella took over after Jimmy passed away. Now Fred and Arzella’s two daughters, Gail and Janyce currently run the business and are going strong, providing necessary quality services to the community. A crowd of well-wishers, business associates and friends joined the Valentines on Friday December 15, at their North Fair Oaks address as they shared sweet memories with the community.
A picture of Jimmy Woods shining shoes adorns the walls of the mortuary, as a reminder of how the family business started and grew into the mortuary business, Arzella Valentine moved to Pasadena where she met and married Fred. This union gave birth to their two daughters, Gail and Janyce. Always available is their mother, Arzella, who still play a part in the business at the age of 91. The granddaughters are starting to play a part as they await the entry of the “child in Escrow,” a phrase coined by Grandma Arzella of her great grandson, coming soon.
The Woods-Valentine story should be a model for families to create, maintain and share the opportunities in business. Getting along and loving one another is the key, and as all could see, love was present at the event.
Woods-Valentine Mortuary is the oldest African American-owned business in the Pasadena/Altadena communities serving the whole of the San Gabriel Valley. The crowd at the event included people from across Los Angeles County. Lois Gaston, former mayor of Monrovia was spotted in the crowd. Vannie Brown, Arzella’s sister and her spouse were there. Vannie worked in the business until her retirement. Many other relatives have worked in the business as well.
Carolyn Roddy of Pampered Lady Florist was in attendance. Pampered Lady is another family business operating in the Pasadena community as is the Pasadena Journal. The success of these pioneering Black-owned businesses is the support they receive from other Black-owned businesses. Supporting one another makes us all family. Pampered Lady is the largest Black-owned ﬂower business in the community. The Journal will soon celebrate 30 years in the community. We thank Woods-Valentine for bringing us into their lives.
Pasadena City Councilmember Tyron Hamilton and local ministers Jesse Chapman and Lucious Smith participated in the activities. Other ministers in attendance were Pastor Jean Burch of Community Church and Rev. Larry Campbell of Pasadena First AME church. This, to me, represents some of the community support given to the family of Black businesses.
Without a particular plan, the Woods-Valentine family has developed a design for family business creation, maintenance and growth through service and community involvement. We wish them many more years of service to our community.