By Barney Blakeney
For Grippon Boags, Chardale Murray and Rev. Charlie Murray, a relationship that is their triangle has come full circle. Boags took Chardale Murray under his wings while she still was in high school training her to become a mortician. He later took her younger brother Charlie under his wing as well and provided him that training as well. Now, nearly 20 years later, Boags works for the Murrays.
Boags said that triangular circle began long before he hired the Murray siblings. At 17, Boags entered Belmont Abbey Monastery in North Carolina. He stayed there six years, studied and became a Benedictine Monk. But eventually Boags decided to leave the monastery. While he was at Belmont Abbey, Abbot Walter Coggins became a father figure to him and taught him habits and perspectives he’d carry with him into the outside world.
Once outside the abbey, Boags realized he had no occupational skills. While looking for work in New York, N.Y. he met Joel Johnson, a paper hanger and painter. Johnson took the young unskilled Boags under his wings and taught him the tradesmen skills that sustained him until Johnson, recognizing a sensitivity in Boags, encouraged Boags to take a job at a funeral home owned by a friend.
Eventually Boags returned to Charleston and bought Harleston Funeral Home. He turned the business established in 1901 into one of the city’s most unique and sought-after services. After buying the business in 1978 and renaming it Harleston-Boags Funeral Home, Boags continued the circle of training. The Murrays were among a contingent of funeral directors and embalmers trained by Boags.
Chardale Murray said she had always dreamed of becoming a mortician. While in middle school she had a dream in which God told her to go into the profession. “I knew I couldn’t go wrong because it was from God,” she says.
While in high school she approached Boags and asked for a job at his funeral home. She worked for and was trained by Boags until going off to college. At 17, she had become the state’s youngest funeral home manager. “Everybody knew I wanted to be a mortician and only went to college instead of mortuary school to please my mother who insisted I have something to fall back on,” she said.
After earning a degree in social work Chardale Murray returned to work at Harleston-Boags and went on to Gupton Jones Mortuary School. Her brother Charlie also had gotten a job at Harleston-Boags. The siblings worked for Boags several more years until in 2004 they ventured out on their own to establish Murray’s Mortuary, Inc. Chardale Murray then became the state’s youngest funeral home owner/director.
“I’m glad Grippon chose us. He saw something in us. He could have chosen anybody,” she says of the relationship between the siblings and their mentor. Boags’ tutelage served the Murrays well. He taught them to go above and beyond in service to families and to treat the deceased with patience and respect. It’s made their business the area’s number one, Chardale Murray said.
In 2013, Boags had heart bipass surgery. Forced into retirement, Boags transferred his pre-need contracts to the Murrays and referred business to them. As he recovered and the Murrays business picked up, they offered Boags an opportunity to join them. “Other than painting, funeral service is his passion,” Charlie Murray said. Boags has been an asset to their business, he said.
Boags describes the cycle of events as a good circle. “I did for them what Joel Johnson did for me,” he said. “That’s how it develops – helping people though people.”