Jerome Cox-Tanner may down, but he certainly isn't out.
Jerome Cox-Tanner with the Rev. Dwight Minnieweather. Photo by Brian Stimson
The longtime funeral director has moved to a new office at 328 NE Failing St. Suite 102 and his holding a community musical celebration this Saturday to help raise funds for the director's legal expenses and the ongoing operation of Cox-Tanner's business.
The celebration will be from 4 to 6 p.m. at Immaculate Heart Church, 2926 N. Williams Ave. on May 8.
The Cox & Cox Funeral Home, which his family has operated for three generations, is currently in a property dispute with Cox-Tanner's daughter, Yolanda Tanner. After Cox-Tanner's mother Charlene died five years ago, Yolanda Tanner produced a document that said a trust in her name owned the family funeral home on Rodney Avenue. Cox-Tanner signed the document, but later said he was grieving and didn't know exactly what he was signing.
Because of a complaint lodged with the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board, Cox & Cox was not granted a temporary license to operate out of their new facilities. A hearing has been set for August.
Cox-Tanner says he is still a licensed funeral director and is able to help families with funeral arrangements, although he now contracts with other funeral homes in the area. He is operating under his own name, Jerome Cox-Tanner, not Cox & Cox.
"The complaint stemmed from a long-running family dispute," he told The Skanner News.
Shawna Tanner, Cox-Tanner's wife, said the complaint -- which limits their ability to do business – is connected to the property dispute, but declined to give further details. The couple said they are unfairly being punished before being found guilty of anything.
"Out of 592 (funerals), only two families lodged a complaint," she said, calling it more than coincidence that through all their years of operation, complaints only started after Yolanda Tanner obtained the sale rights to the family funeral home. Cox-Tanner said he is appealing and hopes to one day restart his business where it has been since the 1940s.
Cox-Tanner says they have had conversations with the district attorney's office and detectives with Portland Police about a possible criminal investigation in relation to the documents that started the property dispute.
"The battle's still on," he said.
The Rev. Dwight Minnieweather, who is organizing the musical celebration and fund-raiser, says coming out and supporting Cox & Cox is more than helping a community partner, it's about preserving the independence of Portland's first African American funeral home.
"People think there's no place to go (for an affordable funeral), but he's still here," Minnieweather said.
Regardless of how much money is raised, or the emotional toll the intra-family property dispute takes on him, Cox-Tanner says he's here to stay.
"I'll be 65 soon and I'm not even thinking about retiring," he said. "I'm thinking of helping people in the community as they go through crises."
Donations can be made at Saturday's event or you can send checks to P.O. Box 12166, Portland, OR 97212. They can also be deposited at any Wells Fargo Bank under the name "Jerome Cox-Tanner Fund."