PINEHURST — For years and years, the village of Pinehurst has been known for its genteel quality of life. But when it came to death and dying citizens were left with few options. No funeral homes. No cemeteries.
Years ago, they shipped bodies out of town by train or took them by wagon to nearby Southern Pines. In later years, standard hearses or planes were used.
But the century-old tradition has itself died.
From the outside what looks like a clubhouse is actually a funeral home. That may not seem unusual to most people, but in Pinehurst it is a first.
"A lot of retirees are older and don't like to travel at night so we thought if we could bring the funeral home to them it would help them," says Jamie Boles, who opened the village's first funeral home.
Boles tried to open his business in 1989 but at the time there were no zoning provisions. The village council created some, but Boles says the criteria were almost impossible to meet.
It wasn't until 1995 that new zoning ordinances made it easier for Bole's plans to come to life.
Historian Mildred McIntosh recalls the earlier years when there were no funeral homes allowed, when bodies were taken away by wagon in the dead of night.
"I don't particularly think they wanted to feature death because the feature of the resort was life and good times," she said.
History has it that just a handful of people are buried in the village. Cemeteries are allowed in selected zoning districts but even today there are no cemeteries in Pinehurst.
There is a cemetery right outside Pinehurst that was built in the 70's by private investors. Built, many say, to keep cemeteries out, and tradition in.
Pinehurst now has a growing, retiring population of about 8000.
There are about 125 deaths a year.