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Thomas R. Shepherd, third generation leader of funeral services, dies

Thomas Redmond “Tom” Shepherd, the third generation funeral director who led the well-known family business from 1965 until health issues prevented his active involvement, died Thursday after more than two years of declining health, friends and family members said.

Shepherd’s son, William Shepherd, confirmed his father’s death but said he had been unable to find out which funeral home is handling the arrangements. The funeral home that Tom Shepherd’s grandfather founded in 1903 cannot handle the funeral arrangements because it has been shut down by state regulators after an investigation into numerous violations of funeral service rules and state law.
In recent years Tom Shepherd’s wife, Melody, had taken an active role operating Thos. Shepherd & Son Funeral Directors. Although she was not a licensed funeral director, she was the company president and also served as crematory manager. The N.C. Board of Funeral Service on Nov. 10 revoked Tom Shepherd’s funeral director license and Melody Shepherd’s crematory manager license, barring both from reapplying for five years.
“I’ve not actually spoken to him for 27 years and you can imagine why,” William Shepherd said of his father.
In addition to his wife and William, Shepherd is survived by a daughter, Trisha, of Poway, California, and his first wife, Patricia "Patsy" Shepherd. He had no grandchildren.
In 1903, company founder Thomas Shepherd managed a furniture and general merchandise store at 218 Main Street and sold coffins on the side. Thomas Shepherd later bought out his brother, M.M. Shepherd, and later, in 1924, opened one of the first funeral homes in Western North Carolina. Thomas’s son, William “Billy” Shepherd, joined the family business in 1934, later serving as president and managing funeral director until his death in 1965. In 1954, under Billy’s leadership, the company opened Shepherd Memorial Park, the first public nonsectarian perpetual care cemetery in Henderson County. Thomas Redmond Shepherd became managing funeral director of the funeral home in 1965 upon Billy Shepherd's death. Tom Shepherd had been active in civic life for many years, winning the Richard C. and Vina L. Sauer Award, which the top honor for philanthropy given by Community Foundation of Henderson County.
An employee testified during a Board of Funeral Service hearing on the funeral home’s practices on Nov. 10 that she had seen Tom Shepherd only one time in the six months she worked there in the first half of 2020.
No fourth-generation family members had been involved in the Shepherd funeral business.
“We weren’t allowed to,” William said. “She used coercive control. My sister and I have not been involved nor we were invited.”
Melody Shepherd’s personal mobile phone will not accept voicemail messages and the Lightning was unable to learn any further details.
“I don’t think she’s going to have a memorial, which in my opinion is certainly unfortunate,” Shepherd said. “I am of course in pursuit now to secure my rights as an heir, not necessarily as a beneficiary. If me and Trisha are (in the will) we will never know.”
Shepherd, 48, said he hoped the Board of Funeral Services and the N.C. Cemetery Commission would continue their review of the business.
“It’s depressing for me that me and my sister had to sit by and see it destroyed,” he said.