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In 1966, three entrepreneurs who had come of age during the Great Depression and who against all odds as individuals had successfully started and operated businesses in the Bronx, came together to create McCall’s Bronxwood Funeral Home. Herbert T. McCall owned and operated Herbert T. McCall Funeral Home in the Morrisania Section since 1952; Emma Brisbane owned and operated Flowers by Emily next door to Mr. McCall’s funeral home; and James Alston owned and operated Freddie’s Bar and Café in the Morrisania section since the mid ’40s and 22 West Restaurant in Harlem since the early ‘60s.
They realized that the pulse of the lower Bronx community that each of them had been serving had steadily migrated north, had become homeowners and had established roots with churches, civic associations, social clubs and local schools. This community now needed a funeral home.
The three combined their resources to lease then purchase the premises which McCall’s Bronxwood has occupied for 50 years.
Although the structure was that of a corporation, McCall’s truly represents the blood, sweat and tears of the families; and despite the passing of the originators, the son of James Alston has continued as the sole survivor and owner of the group.
From a two room operation, McCall’s has grown to be the pace-setter of the funeral industry in the Bronx, Manhattan and Lower Westchester. Among the first to incorporate technology into an industry steeped in tradition, McCall’s introduced computerized funeral arrangements, fax machines, web broadcasting, stretch limousines and state of the art embalming and viewing accommodations. In addition, given the founders’ other experiences with customer needs and services, McCall’s introduced a new paradigm to the Funeral Industry by supporting churches, civic organizations, social groups and regular families with Christmas candies for children, calendars and pens for churches as well as individuals, free annual transportation to veterans cemeteries on Memorial Day, turkeys for Thanksgiving, innumerable journal ads, Christmas toys for shut-ins and underserved children, scholarship money for UNCF, numerous scholarships for college bound community youths and a free annual Christmas party for the past eighteen (18) years.
The walls at McCall’s Bronxwood Funeral Home proudly display scores of community and political awards, including the first Joseph L. Galiber Award from the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, tributes from State Senators, Assemblymen and City Councilmen, plaques including the President’s Award from the New York Club (NANBPWC, Inc.), St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Community Protestant Church, Butler Memorial United Methodist Church, Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church of Williamsbridge, Our Lady of Grace Parish, Primrose and Wembley Cricket Clubs, Cornwall Athletic Association, The Clergy Coalition of the 47th Precinct, Victory Seventh Day Adventist Church, The Retirees of Dreiser Loop, NAACP, NCNW, Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and many more yet to be displayed because the walls are full.
The tradition of individual community involvement also continues with Jim, the son, who is a member of the Thru Way Home Owners Association, a Silver and Gold Life Member of the NAACP, a Board Member of Northeast Bronx Child Care Centers, a Board Member of the Williamsbridge NAACP Child Care Center; the Chairman of the Barbara M. Simpson Memorial Scholarship Foundation; recipient of: “Take It To The Hill” award by The Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Achievement Awards Jubilee, Inc.; “Distinguished Service Award” by the Bronx-Manhattan North Association of Realtors, Inc.; A Fe WE Cultural Award for Leadership; Mico Old Students Association, Inc., New York Chapter “Community Honoree”; 47th Precinct Community Council “Community Service Award”; “Distinguished Community Service Award” by the All Islands Association; “Businessman of the Year Award” from Macedonia Baptist Church; “International Excellence Award in Scholarship Support” from NANBPWC. He is a former Trustee of Audrey Cohen College, and former president of the Dewitt Clinton High School Alumni Association.
The coveted DeWitt Clinton High School Distinguished Alumni Award, has been awarded to others such as Burt Lancaster, Hon. Burton B. Roberts, Hon. Basil Patterson and Edward Rudin, (to name a few) and our own Jim Alston. Jim has had the distinction of being the youngest recipient of such an award and has also received the International Lawyers Award from the Manila College of Law at a ceremony in Manila, Philippines.
James Alston, an attorney from Howard University School of Law (a member of the New York State and Federal Bars), a former Assistant District Attorney for the Bronx, a former Law Secretary in the New York Civil Court is the CEO of McCall’s Bronxwood Funeral Home. Jim, as he is more dearly known to most, has with humility, resources, education and experience added strength to the Bronx community and beyond. As a result of his forward-thinking, his gracious manner and his long and active record, he has become a staple in the community and a household name and people are drawn to seek his services, not only in the time of their greatest need in making final preparations for their loved ones, but also because of his active and enthusiastic participation in civic life and so he is held in highest regard in and around the community.