Ever since his uncle knocked on his college dorm room door in 1958 and urged him to come home and run the family funeral home business, Joe Ben Tucker made it his ministry to help families through their difficult times of grief.

Tucker, who owned and operated Tucker Funeral Homes in Central City since he was 19, died on Saturday with his family by his side. He was 81.

The third generation director at the funeral home also held many positions on community boards in Muhlenberg County, including the Everly Brothers Foundation, the Madisonville Community College Foundation, as well as both Union and Old National banks.

He also was involved in the funeral industry, having served as president of the Funeral Director Association of Kentucky, and president and chairman of the Kentucky Funeral Directors Burial Association.

He also assisted in creating the Funeral Funding Trust in Kentucky, and served as chairman for many years of the Trust Committee for the Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky. He also has been a member of the National Funeral Directors Policy Board.

Mike Mercer, regional president at Farmer’s Bank, has known Tucker since he was a child. He would look up to him, and seek him out for advice.

Mercer considered Tucker one of the prominent male figures in his life, aside from his father.

“Everybody loved him, and when you met him, you felt like he loved you,” Mercer said.

Mercer said Tucker spent most of his life involved in the community, even up until his death. Tucker was compassionate, and caring, and believed in Central City and Muhlenberg County, Mercer said.

“He also was a character,” Mercer said, recounting moments he would joke with Tucker about how sharp-dressed he was. “If you wanted to know what to wear, what was in style, you went to see Joe Ben. He looked like a million dollars every time you saw him.”

Freddie Mayes, Central City Tourism executive director, served alongside Tucker on several community boards, and was a long-time friend.

“He has a strong legacy in so many different ways,” Mayes said. “He had a connection with practically everything that went on in our community.”

Mayes said Tucker was a supporter of most groups that has to do with Central City, as he was a strong proponent for community building.

Tucker also was active at First Baptist Church, Mayes said, and served as a Sunday school teacher and a deacon.

“He was one of those good guys,” Mayes said. “He was a beloved member of the community that will truly be missed.”

Tim Tucker, son of Joe Ben, said his family would encourage the community to keep his father’s memory alive by sharing their favorite times with Joe Ben. He said the family “would love to hear that.”

“I always tell people that Dad never considered (the funeral home) to be work,” Tim Tucker said. “It was always about service, about compassion. It was a ministry for him to offer this to the community. He absolutely lived for his funeral service, and for his profession.”

Tim Tucker, who has worked at Tucker Funeral Homes for the past 11 years, said the funeral home will continue to provide the service that Joe Ben Tucker established over the past 62 years.

Joe Ben Tucker’s funeral service will take place at 12 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home. Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, and after 8 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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