Jeff Eberhart wore several hats in Paulding County. He was not only the man behind Jeff Eberhart Funeral Home, but he was also the guy with some of the best stories folks had ever heard.
A world traveler and adventure-seeker, Eberhart’s tales, complete with vocal theatrics when necessary, earned him a special nickname among friends, family and colleagues.
“I looked at him as our Indiana Jones and they called him Indiana Jeff,” said Melton Moss, a fellow funeral director and manager of Freeman Harris Funeral Home, Rockmart. “He’d set foot on every continent in the world and he could just thrill you to death with his adventures.”
Moss immediately recalled a story about Eberhart on safari and a charging elephant came out of nowhere.
“He had a way of telling the story and sharing his experience with you,” Moss said. “Jeff enjoyed a full life.”
Jeffry Lindsey Eberhart, of Dallas, died Thursday from injuries sustained in what law enforcement officials describe as a “freak accident” while riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on I-75. He was on his way to Tennessee to go camping, when the wind shear from a passing tractor-trailer caught the small trailer he was pulling, turning over the Harley. He was 58.
A service was held Sunday at the Paulding County Community Center. Per his wishes, his remains were cremated following the service and will be buried at a later date. The funeral home that bears his name was in charge of arrangements.
Eberhart, a native of Paulding County, aspired as a young man to the funeral service industry, said his daughter, Lindsey Eberhart. A 1976 graduate of the Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Science, he worked for several funeral homes before deciding to buy the business of his last employer. He was also elected county coroner in 1980 and served in that capacity for 12 years.
“The story goes that he asked Hubert Martin how much to buy the funeral home,” Eberhart said of her father. “And he got a number and told him he’d be back in 10 years and a day with the money to buy the business. And that is what he did.”
In 1982 Eberhart and a business partner bought the business and later that year the enterprising businessman bought that partner out. He changed the company’s name and proceeded to run the best funeral home he could, friends and colleagues say.
“He treated every family like it was his own family,” said Greg Rollings, who assumed ownership of the funeral home upon Eberhart’s death. “And that is what he expected from everybody.”
The Eberhart way will continue. Lindsey Eberhart is prepared to step into her father’s role, Rollings said.
“Just hours before he died, we had a conversation and he said he was so glad Lindsey was here,” he said.
Eberhart, who recently graduated from mortuary school, said she knows her father was grooming her to take over the family business. But she nor Rollings had any idea her time would come so soon.
“He seemed to get that it was going to be short,” she said of her father’s life. “The last thing he said to me was, ‘You got this, kiddo?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I do.” And he said ‘I know you do.’”
In addition to his daughter, Eberhart is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Debra Eberhart; a second daughter, Sidney Eberhart; and mother, Shirley Leggett, all of Dallas; father, Billy Eberhart, of Hiram; sister, Cindy Duncan and step-sister Susan Whitfield, both of Dallas.