Central Texas funeral home director honored with prestigious award

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 8:15 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 8:16 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Central Texas native has received a prestigious award for being one of the best of the best funeral home employees under the age of 50 worldwide.

Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home in Waco Chief Operating Officer Josh Blake, 39, was presented with the 2023 NextGen Professional of the Year Award by the Selected Independent Funeral Homes.

Blake received the award at the NextGen seminar in the Grand Caymon.

“Receiving the NextGen Professional of the Year award from Selected Independent Funeral Homes means so much to me because it comes from my colleagues who I’ve gotten to work alongside and learn so much from,” Blake said.

Blake was born in Mexia, but moved to Waco when he was four years old.

He is a 2002 graduate of Waco High School and 2009 graduate of Baylor University.

Following his college graduation, Blake worked overseas teaching English.  He then pursued a career at MHMR in Waco before making the transition to working at WHB.

During his nearly decade at WHB, Josh has been a funeral director’s assistant, worked as an advanced planning specialist and later funeral director before becoming COO in 2017.

He said working for the only independent family owned funeral home in Waco has been an honor.

“Serving the Waco community has been an honor having grown up in Waco and to be recognized for the work we do as a team at WHB means the world to me,” Blake said.

The committee which selected Blake for the award said that he has helped improve and enhance the business.   During the COVID pandemic, they say Blake pivoted regular operations to serve the community while retaining as many team members as possible. He also coordinated staff vaccinations while refining virtual arrangements and livestreaming serviced and managed critical website, software and social media upgrades.

Blake says he’s dedicating the award to Hatch Bailey, the President of WHB who first gave Blake an opportunity.

“I realized at that moment that receiving this award wouldn’t be possible without him,” Blake said.  “I’m thankful he took a chance on me when he hired me after making a career change, and now he has entrusted me with the management of his family business.”

The Association of Selected Independent Funeral Homes was founded in 1917 as National Selected Morticians.

Membership is by invitation only after evaluation of character, professional ability and reputation.