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 Henry Harrison Bell, Sr

Henry Harrison Bell, Sr

Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Virginia, USA
Death 30 Jan 2012 (aged 84)
Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Virginia, USA
Burial Charlottesville, Charlottesville City, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 84229603 · View Source
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The fruitful and faithful life of Henry Harrison Bell Sr. ended peacefully on Monday, January 30, 2012, at the Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Henry was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, on April 3, 1927, to the late John Ferris and Maude Lee Bell of Charlottesville, Virginia. He was married to his beloved wife of 58 years, Verlease Jackson Bell. Henry was preceded in death by his sister, Rosemond B. Jemison; and two brothers, John F. Bell, Jr. and his twin, Raymond Lee Bell.

Henry was admired by friends, family and all who knew him; a loving husband, father and grandfather. He was devoted not only to his family, but to his friends, church, and community. He possessed a special way with him that made everyone feel at ease, and special when they were around him. We will never forget his handsome smile, quick wit and sense of humor.

Henry Bell was a Charlottesville native and a graduate of Jefferson High School. During his service in the Armed Forces shortly after World War II, he was stationed in Germany and was honorably discharged. He attended West Virginia State University and was a graduate of Boston School of Mortuary Science in 1951. He returned to Charlottesville and began his illustrious career working in his father's funeral business - J. F. Bell Funeral Home, which was established in 1917. He instituted the change from black to white funeral vehicles which was a bold move in the funeral business and it became the signature of J. F. Bell Funeral Home. He instituted many traditions that only exist at a Bell Funeral. He often demonstrated that providing the utmost care and service to families was a very important part of funeral service and he along with his brothers strove to provide that service which gave Bell Funeral Home a stellar reputation in the funeral business. He was a Funeral Service licensee for over 60 years. He was a master in restorative work and he was sought out by those in the funeral business as an expert embalmer. He and his brothers ran J. F. Bell Funeral Home for more than half a century. At the time of his death, he was the President of J. F. Bell Funeral Home Inc. which has existed as a family business for 95 years. During his tenure at J. F. Bell, the doors were open to make donations to many charitable causes and to support church and civic events in the African American community; the organizations included sponsoring a youth baseball team; supporting numerous church anniversaries and programs and to include the NAACP, local black publications, local school events, sports organizations and the Jefferson High School Alumni.

He was an entrepreneur, mentor, investor, visionary and a man of faith. He was a quiet activist who had many firsts in the business community. He and his wife, Verlease, ran Quality Retail Store, one of the only two grocery stores on Vinegar Hill; it later moved to Fifth Street S.W. after urban renewal and the demolition of Vinegar Hill. The store was very popular in the community and was a precursor of the convenience stores of today; it was unique because it stayed open until 11 p.m. when the average grocery store closed much earlier. The store also gave credit to customers when they were not able to pay for items they needed until the end of the month. He was a community youth employer and hired numerous youth to work in the store to help with many of the duties that had to be performed there; they learned many practical skills; gained a strong work ethic; and received good life lessons working under his tutelage. Many of the young men that worked went on to have rewarding careers, and have earned college and graduate degrees. Some of them called him "Dad" and credited him with pointing them in the right direction and inspiring them to become who they are today. Young folks often sought his advice and wisdom. He was easy to relate to and they recognized that he could provide them with valuable insight. He established the first African-American taxi company in Charlottesville, Courtesy Cab, that consisted of a small fleet of taxis. Henry wanted to give dignity to African Americans who wanted to use a taxi; Courtesy Cab did not pass African American passengers by when they waved for a taxi and Courtesy Cab's drivers were trained to open the door for their passengers and assisted them with their belongings. It inspired one of his employees to later have his own private taxi that he ran for several decades. Henry also drove an ambulance during the 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's; he transported local African American from their residences to the hospital in order to receive emergency care; it was during the Jim Crow era, a time when white ambulance drivers would not pick up African Americans who needed emergency transportation. He also dabbled in the restaurant business and opened Henry Jr. Burger House on Commerce Street where the Henry Jr. Burger and the Bull Burger were a fast food treat. He established and was the president of the first African American Investment Club in Charlottesville, the 21st Century Investment Club where the members picked stocks; sought financial education; and made numerous sound financial investments. He was also a land investor and a property investor that rented to local residents. He was a recipient of several notable awards to include the Keeper of the Village Award- given by the African American Cultural Arts Festival; Golden Licensee Award presented by the Virginia Funeral Directors' Association for 50 years of service to the funeral business; and the Pillar of Faith Award from the Piedmont District Baptist Ministers Deacons and Laymen's Union in 2005 for his contribution to the faith community of Charlottesville. He was a former member of the Virginia Funeral Directors' Association and a Lifetime member of First Baptist Church.

Most weekends he was involved directing a funeral with his brother, John, or if by chance there wasn't a funeral you would find him behind the counter of his store or in later years taking orders in his restaurant. He enjoyed revivals and would make his rounds to attend many that were held by the various churches.

He relished a good meal at many of the local diners and fast food restaurants to include the Kustard Korner, Lins, Henry's, and drug store counters such as Timberlakes, Standard, and Peoples Drug stores. On those rare occasions, when he had free time, he was an avid sportsman who enjoyed fishing and hunting. He loved the mountains in the fall and the beach in the summer.

He leaves to cherish his memory his wife, Verlease Jackson Bell; one son, Dr. Henry H. Bell Jr. and wife, Cynthia, of Columbia, Maryland; two daughters, Deborah Bell Burks and husband, Colonel Martin V. Burks III, of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Sabrina Bell Carter and husband, Carl Carter Esquire, of Memphis, Tennessee; five grandchildren, Martin V. Burks IV, Hailey, Jessica, Heather and Henry Bell III; one very special Godson, Erskine White; a Goddaughter, Denise McDonald; two God grandchildren, Timbernee and Zoe; one sister-in-law, Shirley Mills; two devoted friends, Joyce Stinnie and Karen Ray; numerous nieces and nephews and a host of other relatives and friends.

Funeral services were held Saturday, February 4, 2012, at First Baptist Church, 632 West Main Street with the Reverend Hodari Hamilton officiating. Interment at Oakwood Cemetery.

J. F. Bell Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

Family Members






  • Created by: A. L. Parrish
  • Added: 30 Jan 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 84229603
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Henry Harrison Bell, Sr (3 Apr 1927–30 Jan 2012), Find A Grave Memorial no. 84229603, citing Oakwood Cemetery, Charlottesville, Charlottesville City, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by A. L. Parrish (contributor 46498466) .