Ben Ed Brazzel, well known as “Eddie”, passed away Thursday, April 27, 2023 at The Retreat at Kenwood located in Texarkana, Texas at the age of 76. Eddie was born October 1, 1946 in Ruston, Louisiana to Annie Lee Buckley Brazzel and Herschel Benjamin Brazzel.
After his father’s death, when Eddie was just a senior in high school, his family lost everything. This was Eddie’s motivation for his entire life. He wanted to be able to provide for his family and never have to feel the way he did after his father passed away. He spent his life working to provide for his family and helping others.
Eddie began his working career as a young boy mowing yards for a living in Junction City, Arkansas. He then moved to the position of yard boy and janitor for Pratt Funeral Home of EI Dorado, Arkansas.
Eddie later moved his mother and sisters with him when he began a new job as an EMT at Hiawatha Daniel Funeral Home and ambulance service in Searcy, Arkansas
Owning only 2 white shirts and 2 pair of black pants, his mama kept them washed as they lived off of potatoes with ketchup and spaghetti.
On August 9, 1965, the Titan II Missile Silo explosion occurred near Searcy, Arkansas. The incident resulted in only 2 of the 55 workers surviving. The silo was built in work levels. Seventy degrees would have been the boiling point for the chamber levels of the silos. With the explosion, air conditioning immediatelv ceased and the emergency doors closed causing the temperature to quickly reach 80 degrees. At 19 years old Eddie was the first paramedic on the scene and could recall hearing the screams behind the door. When they opened the doors the workers were all gassed and he began picking up bodies. Eddie traveled back and forth 95 steps down to the first level to retrieve bodies. They removed 53 bodies in 48 hours. Working this explosion was the pivot point when Eddie realized he was called to go to mortuary school.
Eddie attended Dallas Institute of Mortuary Science where he completed school in one year. His employer Hiawatha Daniel agreed to fund his education and he repaid the loan by returning to Hiawatha Daniel Funeral Home and working 2 years to pay back his school loan with interest.
Eddie returned to his hometown of El Dorado after repaying his loan and was employed by the Young Funeral Home. While working in El Dorado he met Janie O’Mary who was the insurance office manager of another local funeral home.
He later married Janie and the couple lived in a garage apartment in El Dorado where they raised Ben to the age of three.
In 1978 Eddie had the opportunity to come to Hope, Arkansas and work for the Hendrix family and their “Eddie”
funeral home, Oakcrest Funeral Home. He worked here for one year and then was given the opportunity to purchase the business.
Upon arriving in Hope they joined the First Baptist Church of Hope pastored by Dr. Stiltner and Eddie began teaching Sunday school.
Eddie and his family lived in a humble situation beside the funeral home. He took an interest in horses and began training them as a “horse whisperer” out at Rocky Mound. He started with Arabians, Walkers, and then Quarter horses. His love for horses manifested in weekly rides resulting in a friendship with the Hogue, Rateliff, and Luker families.
Many can recall seeing Eddie Brazzel riding in as the Grand Marshal of the Hope Livestock District Fair and Rodeo Parade. He served as parade Grand Marshal in his grand Eddie style for 28 years. He also achieved 32nd degree Mason and served as past Worshipful Master of Whitfield Lodge #239.
In 1991, his dream of owning his first 6 door funeral coach Cadillac came true. He made his purchase of a four door Cadillac Sedan at the Memphis Coach Company. To make this dream become a reality for his business, he had the car split in half at Henry Brothers in Manilla, Arkansas then having a section installed to extend the vehicle and created a 6 door limousine. At this time there were no internet or cellphone services to send progress photos so the Brazzel family made eleven trips to Manilla to see the progression of their limo.
As a young boy, Ben wanted to contribute to his dads dream of that 6 door Cadillac so he asked his mom to empty the savings account she had been building up for Ben and put it all towards the extension of the funeral limousine because he wanted to be a part of achieving his dad’s success for their business. The arrival of the black 6 door Cadillac limousine was the first of its kind in Southwest Arkansas that quickly became a town icon.
Also in 1991, with the support of his wife Janie and son Ben, Eddie wanted to move Oakcrest Funeral Home to 1001 South Main Street in Hope. This was a time when bank boards had control of all in-house loans and the Brazzel family had to place their trust in the vote of these board members. At first the loan was turned down but business associate John Hays approached several board members and assured them this family could stand for it. The Brazzels took out a business loan at the First National Bank of Hope where they were allowed a balloon note. The Brazzels also took on local investors to grow the dream of Oakcrest Funeral Home to what would now be Brazzel Oakcrest Funeral Home.
The business started with these investors: Tom Ed Hays Jr. , Mary Ann Avery, Jim Pilkinton, B.W. Edwards, and the Brazzel Family.
However, as the business strengthened through hard work, dedication, and many life sacrifices of this family trio, Eddie, Janie, and Ben were eventually able to buy out their investors.
This business relationship grew into a business loyalty as well as personal friendship that has remained close knit over the years.
With Eddie at the helm, this trio pushed forward and investing in the Hope community. They began to become the proprietor of many rental properties and forged a partnership with Cindy Sisson Ford for the direction and management of their investment loyalties to the Hope community.
In October of 1993 the Brazzels acquired Cornish funeral home in Prescott from the Pittman Family.
Eddie did not allow Ben to accept an opportunity to work as a trainer for the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team in 1993 because he already had him enrolled at the Dallas Institute of Mortuary Science.
Ben made Eddie and Janie proud by graduating at the top of his class proving his knowledge of the trade that came naturally to the Brazzel family.
Eddie and Ben worked side by side as funeral professionals and embalmers for over 30 years.
There are many “Eddieisms” that those who know him can reflect on and every one of those quirky memories of this great man are paired with great respect because
Eddie wasn’t just a dreamer but a doer and an achiever.
He never failed to have an opinion, a temper, a quick wit or rule his life (and Ben’s) with an iron will. Eddie wanted to live, work, laugh, and talk until the Lord called him home. Eddie was allowed that to the end which came on April 27, 2023.
Eddie was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Janie Ruth Brazzel; his son Ben Brazzel of Hope, Arkansas; his granddaughter, Ellie Ruth Brazzel of Little Rock, Arkansas; and his sisters, Kathy Brazzel of Spearsville, Louisiana and Leslie Brazzel Jones and her husband Scott Jones of Longview, Texas.
Visitation will be Thursday, May 4, 2023, 5:30-7:00 pm at Brazzel Oakcrest, 1001 South Main Street, Hope,
Funeral Service will be 2:00 pm, Friday, May 5, 2023, First Baptist Church-Hope with Brother Jay Pollan officiating.
Internment will follow at Memory Gardens Cemetery.
Rainbow of Challenges/Melon Patch
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Hope, Ar 71801
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Hope, Arkansas 71801