Pelzer Funeral Home: The Pelzer Funeral Home — A Hearse for the Whole Family
Clyde Pelzer opened up his family-run funeral home in 1936 at 5th and Christian. Clyde came to Philadelphia from South Carolina looking for work. He apprenticed at a relative’s funeral business in West Philadelphia for several years before opening up his own funeral home in South Philadelphia. At the time, Pelzer ran the only black-owned funeral home in that area, filling a vital niche in the social structure of the neighborhood.
In 1970, Pelzer moved the business two blocks to its present-day location at 3rd and Christian Street. The building was originally built as a synagogue, which is reflected in unique architectural features such as a skewed ceiling pointing to the East, a mostly-covered stained glass Star of David, and a dusty wine cellar.
When Clyde Pelzer passed away in 1987, two of his nine children took over the business. Claude Pelzer, one of Clyde’s sons, now runs the funeral home along with his wife, Laura, and sister, Lydia Kirkland. Claude says the business is less of a local institution than it used to be, due to the increased amount of young and transient residents in the neighborhood. Now Pelzer Funeral Home regularly serves people from all over the tri-state area. Indeed, the Pelzers live in New Jersey, commuting to work and relying on the telephone—rather than the doorbell—to schedule funeral services.