Charles W. McCulley, 78, slipped away peacefully on Saturday, October 14, 2017.
- Visitation will be from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Friday October 20, 2017 following with a Elks Memorial Service at 6:30 pm at Angelus Chapel, 1104 S. Circle Drive. Colorado Springs, CO.
- Visitation Saturday, October 21, 2017, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm at Angelus Chapel, 1102 E. Evans Ave, Pueblo, CO.
- Rosary/Vigil Mass Sunday, October 22, 2017, 5:00 pm at St Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 611 Logan St, Pueblo, CO.
- Mass of the Christian Burial 10:00 am Monday October 23, 2017, at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 1145 Aspen Rd, Pueblo, CO. Interment Roselawn Cemetery.
- Condolences may be shared with the family by visiting www.angelusfuneradirectors.com
Charles W. McCulley was born July 18, 1939 in Pocatello, Idaho to his proud parents, William Sonny McCulley and Juanita and Clinton Young Morris who preceded him in death; along with his devoted wife, Petra Gonzalez de McCulley; mother-in-law, Juana Heredia Gonzalez; uncle, Spencer McCulley; brother-in-laws, Efrain, Juan, Hector, and Santander; sister-in-laws, Margarita, Cecelia, Mercedes, and Gabriela. Charles was the founder of the Angelus Chapel Mortuaries in Pueblo and Colorado Springs.
Charles W. McCulley was literally born into the funeral business. From the time he was 8 years old, the curious native Idahoan traveled to Chicago in the summers to work with his uncle, who was the head embalmer at a funeral home. While a typical child might be apprehensive in such an environment, Charles embraced the experience, learning everything he could from his uncle. He did his first embalming at age 14. He loved the work despite his mother's desire of wanting him to be a doctor. He was an altar boy in his Catholic Parish in Pocatello, Idaho, and the priests there encouraged him to study for the seminary, but Charles had other plans. He wanted to be an undertaker.
Charles graduated from Pocatello High School in 1958, then elected to study Mortuary Science in San Francisco, California, where he graduated second in his class in June 1959. After graduation, he obtained employment with funeral homes in the Bay Area before venturing south to Los Angeles where he joined the staff of the prestigious Angelus Funeral Home. It was there that he garnered a wealth of experience, including assisting to prepare the body of legendary singer, Nat King Cole. He was amazed to see the wealth of attendance of celebrities for Mr. Cole's funeral.
Uncle Sam "came a calling" with a draft card. Charles joined the Army and further developed his skills as a mortician while also doing duty as a radio and television announcer. While stationed in Panama, he announced the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on the Southern Command Network radio and television station. It was also while stationed in Panama that Charles met Petra Gonzalez de Murillo, whom he would marry and start a family.
While stationed in Panama, a classmate from the San Francisco School of Mortuary Science, Puebloan T.G. McCarthy, contacted Charles to advise him about a funeral home that was available for sale in Pueblo, Colorado. Alva Jones had operated the funeral home since 1921, and he and his wife Helen where planning on retiring. McCarthy felt that Charles would be the perfect man to serve the community. Jones’ Mortuary served the Hispanic and African-American populations of Pueblo. During that time, other funeral homes in Pueblo wouldn’t provide service to those two groups. Mr. Jones's funeral home had paved the way for the McCulley’s.
Charles and his beloved wife Petra purchased the Jones Funeral Home in May of 1968. They later changed the name to Angelus Chapel. During the time they started their funeral home business in Pueblo, the Civil Rights Movement was well on its way and unrest was about to erupt following the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Democratic Presidential nominee, Robert F. Kennedy. While not blatant, discrimination and prejudice were things the McCulleys encountered as they established the funeral home. They continued with the tradition of serving minority families not served by other mortuaries and did so with dignity and pride. Petra’s first language was Spanish and she acted as a go-between for Charles and the Hispanic families. Innovation was nothing new to Charles, and he wasn’t shy about making changes in the way funeral homes did business in Pueblo. One of the most notable achievements was the introduction of lavender-colored vehicles at the time when basic black or white vehicles was the Pueblo standard. In L.A, every funeral home had its own distinctive color. It turned out to be a wise business promotion and a good one at that; the eye-catching, soothing color proved to be both popular and conducive to the new business. It is nothing less than an understatement to call Charles a “visionary”.
Charles became heavily involved in several civic service organizations, such as the NAACP, where he served as president for two terms; the Pueblo Human Resources Commission (he was the first chairman); Mount Carmel Credit Union where he served as President of the board of directors, the Disabled American Veterans. Masonics and Elks. He was also recognized for recruiting minorities for the Colorado State Patrol and Rio Grande Railroad. In addition, the funeral home was the first minority-owned funeral home to secure a government contract to take care of the arrangements for military men and women of El Paso County.
Like mentors before him, Charles continued to pass on his trade to his and Petra's children. Today, sons Frank and Joseph operate the Angelus Funeral Home in Colorado Springs. His daughter, Yanera, and son, Lil Joseph, operate the funeral home in Pueblo. Daughters Velkis, Juanita and Tamisha, willingly help out and actively assist where and when needed. Charles had begun to groom the next generation, starting with his grand-daughter Zolanye.
When Charles and Petra moved to Pueblo, he promised her they would stay two to five years and then sell the funeral home and move to California. But once they met the people of Pueblo, drank the water and ate the Green Chile, they fell in love with Pueblo and made it the city that they would call home, raised their family and grew their personal and professional connections. In May of 2018, the family owned business will be celebrating 50 years in business. The funeral home has been a mainstay in Pueblo for 94 years.
Charles loved his profession. He would say that "it is a ministry. It’s not about the money, but about helping people when they need it most." He never had any plans to retire from the family-owned business. For someone who’s seen a lot of death, he was typically upbeat and joyful when he was asked for his advice on living. “You learn to respect life. Enjoy each day. Rejoice and be glad!," he would say. Every day when he arises, he thanks God for the day and asks him to let him be a good steward for those he is privileged to serve.
Charles leaves his legacy to his children: Franklin O. McCulley, Joseph DaCosta McCulley, Velkis (Greg) McCulley-Matthews, Juanita (Jerry) McCulley-Santos, Yanera (Donnie) McCulley-Sedillo, Tamisha McCulley and Lil Joseph F. McCulley; daughter in law: Yvetta DaCosta; his grandchildren Tinisha, Giovanni, Charles, Lelani, Zolanye Tiffany Rose, Ty, Ashley, Yael, Charles Lee, Niko, Jachob, Jesse and Shawn; his godchildren: Raylynn and Tyson; his aunt Nina McCulley of Pocatello , Idaho; sister-in-law, Lydia Gomez-Gibbs; nieces and nephews: Gasper “Matoni”, Alfredo (Noris), Yadis, Amada, Etilvia (Ricardo), Irasema (Esteban) Carlito, Luis Rafa, Mario, Enqrique, Cecilio, Negro, Mariana, Hector II, Yuri, Yira and Yeri, all of Panama. Cousins Jimmy McCulley, Olympic WA, Paul McCulley, Pocatello ID, Theresa McCulley, Las Vegas, NV, Cynthia Bradshaw, of Columbus, MO, and his entire family of the Angelus Chapel Funeral Homes. Compadres, Don and Consuelo Sedillo.
Information provided by Angelus Funeral Directors, 10/18/2017