Noble and Kelsey Funeral Home celebrating 120 years; community celebration is Sept. 24

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 18, 2022

Staff report

SALISBURY — The need for a Black funeral home and a desire to serve the people of Salisbury and Rowan County led to the beginning of Noble and Kelsey Funeral Home.

In 1902, W.F. Kelsey, a local barber, and Steven Noble, hearse driver for Wright’s Funeral Home and a local drayman (taxi and hauling), saw the need. The experiences of the two were compatible. Kelsey was called upon to prepare the dead and to assist families with their funeral services after a casket was purchased from a local casket maker or furniture company. Noble had the know-how from the varied tasks he performed at Wright’s Funeral Home.

Kelsey completed a course in embalming and was certified in 1906. After his marriage to the former Lula Spaulding, his wife became active in funeral activities, becoming the first female embalmer in North Carolina.

The three operated the business at 117 East Fisher Street, the store-front edifice housing both the funeral home and a barber shop. In 1928 a building was purchased at 225 East Fisher St., undergoing extensive remodeling and expansion.

After the death of Noble in the 1930s, Kelsey became sole owner of the business. Noble had asked, prior to his death, that the name of Noble be retained as a part of the funeral home as long as his widow lived. After her passing, the firm has continued to maintain this name in honor of one of the founders.

The Kelsey Mutual Burial Association was organized in 1932, providing protection for citizens in Rowan, Cabarrus, Davie, Montgomery and Stanly counties

Kelsey died in 1945 and his wife died two years later. Then A.R. Kelsey became sole owner, having been associated with the business since 1938, following his graduation from Livingstone College and the Cincinnati College of Embalming. He remodeled the building twice and continued the high class service initiated by his parents.

Acquiring the present facility (223 East Fisher St. in 1970) was another step toward attempting to maintain modern, first class service and adequate space.

In June of 1969, Noble and Kelsey Funeral Home was incorporated. The officers were: A.R. Kelsey, president and treasurer; M. Garland Kelsey, vice president; and Reba T. Kelsey, secretary.

The current funeral home staff is made up of third- and fourth-generation Kelseys: A.R. and Reba Kelsey’s daughter, Kimberly D. Kelsey, and her daughter, Adrianna M. Kelsey. They along with staff members James Alexander, George Bates III, Douglas Hall, Michael McClelland, William Smith, Alice Suber and Jacqueline Wellington serve the Salisbury-Rowan area now.

Noble and Kelsey will be celebrating with a private employee commemoration dinner to honor the legacy and longevity of their existence. During the dinner they will also commemorate the deceased employees who dedicated their years, time and talents.

On Saturday, Sept. 24, at the funeral home from 1-4 p.m., there will be a community celebration with games, giveaways, food, fellowships and music featuring D.J. Peaches and Livehouse Band.

Organizations the funeral home is part of:

-National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, Inc.
-Funeral Directors and Morticians Association of North Carolina, Inc.
-Western District Funeral Directors Association of North Carolina, Inc.
-The International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association
-Rowan County Chamber of Commerce
-Better Business Bureau (BBB)
-Epsilon Nu Delta Fraternity, Inc.


Community Outreach

Rowan Helping Ministries

Livingstone College United Negro College Fund (UNCF)

Noble and Kelsey annual Back 2 School Drive (est. 2020)

Noble and Kelsey Winter Coat Drive 2021

Noble and Kelsey Thanksgiving Giveaway 2020

Noble and Kelsey Voter and Census Registration Drive 2020

Noble and Kelsey Christmas Event