Vernon R. Bailey, Funeral Director

December 08, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen

Vernon Ronald "Spanky" Bailey, a longtime Baltimore funeral director, died Nov. 21 of kidney and liver failure at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in downtown Baltimore. He was 71.

Mr. Bailey was born in Baltimore and raised on Stricker Street in Sandtown-Winchester. After graduating from Douglass High School in 1956, he earned his degree in embalming from the Eckels School of Mortuary Science in Philadelphia in 1959.

"He longed to be a mortician from an early age, and as a child, he used to embalm my dolls and put them in little boxes," said a sister, Geraldine J. Fields of Baltimore.

After serving in the Army, he began his professional career in 1963 at the George G. Kelson Funeral Home in the 1300 block of N. Calhoun St.

Mr. Bailey later inherited the business, which he renamed the Vernon R. Bailey Funeral Home.

After closing his business in the late 1980s, Mr. Bailey worked part time for the old Herbert E. Nutter Funeral Home and, in recent years, for the Phillips Funeral Home.

Mr. Bailey was a well-known mentor to many young funeral directors, family members said.

"Ronnie was the consummate funeral director," Mrs. Fields said. "He was known as the undertaker's undertaker."

Mr. Bailey was a founder of King Memorial Park in Milford Mill and past president of the Funeral Directors and Morticians Association of Maryland.

A longtime resident of Ridgewood Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, Mr. Bailey was a Mason and a member of Tuscon Lodge 90 and a member of the Arch Social Club.

He was a fan of the "Matlock" TV show and enjoyed watching classic Westerns.

Mr. Bailey was a longtime active member of Mount Zion United Methodist Church, where services were held Dec. 1.

Also surviving are his wife of 44 years, the former Connie L. Jones; a son, Armand Bailey of Baltimore; three brothers, Vernon Walter Bailey, Charles Bailey and Rodney Spears, all of Baltimore; three other sisters, Vernetta Dixon, Elizabeth Hasan and Florence Hall, all of Baltimore; and two grandchildren. Another son, Rendell Bailey, died in 1997.

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