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Gertrude L. Heyward, Civic Leader and First Female President of the S.C. Morticians Association Dies
5/14/2014 2:42:49 PM

Gertrude L. Heyward
Gertrude L. Heyward, first woman to lead the South Carolina Morticians Association, died Thursday at a local hospital. Miss Heyward also served as General Secretary of the association during the period in which the organization pressed for diverse representation on the State Board of Funeral Service and changed its name from The Colored Funeral Directors and Embalmers of S.C. She was 96 years of age.

Miss Heyward was born January 15, 1918, in Charleston, a daughter of George W. and Julia Hamilton Heyward. She was educated at Immaculate Conception School and Burke Industrial School in Charleston before attending and graduating from Schofield Normal School in Aiken, South Carolina.

She was a graduate of Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Science in Nashville, Tennessee. Miss Heyward was licensed both as a funeral director and an embalmer. At the time of her passing she was the oldest living African-American licensed embalmer in South Carolina.

She was managing director of G. W. Heyward’s Mortuary in Charleston, SC. In 1978, she assumed management of the firm founded by her father in 1924. Miss Heyward served the industry in various capacities including membership on the board of directors of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association. She received numerous service awards during her career.

She also contributed to varied civic interests. Miss Heyward served as chairwoman of the Charleston County Democratic Women’s Council and held positions as vice president and treasurer of the Democratic Women’s Council of South Carolina. In 1971, she was elected president of the Southeastern Regional Conference of Zeta Amicae.

She was a founding member of the Magnolia Temple No. 1115 Elks IBPOE of the World and served as its first president. She has been a former trustee and choir member of Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church for over 40 years.

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