For nearly a century, Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home has provided funeral care to McLennan County, priding themselves on not only offering funeral arrangements, but on serving families during times of grief.
Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey (originally Wilkirson-Hatch Funeral Home) was founded in 1925 by Dillard J. Wilkirson, his son, Jim, and his son-in-law, Roy H. Hatch. The three men settled in Waco during a time when the city was rapidly expanding, but neither the Wilkirsons nor Hatch originally set out to start a funeral home. In the early twentieth century, burials were, for most Americans, small affairs based around the family home. The concept of a remote location dedicated solely to the hosting of funerals was not yet well established, and the three founders initially used their experience in the lumber industry to make and sell coffins. Soon after moving to Waco, however, they became interested in the idea of the modern funeral home and shifted the emphasis of their business. After the owners built a new structure at the bustling intersection of Washington Avenue and Twelfth Street, their new funeral home quickly became an established part of the Waco community.
Wilkirson-Hatch adapted well to the changing midcentury business climates of both Waco and the United States. As a part of booming business in the mid-twentieth century, Wilkirson-Hatch became an incorporated business in 1957, with Roy Hatch as its first president. Under Hatch, the funeral home billed itself as a “family serving families.” Hatch took pride in tasteful, up-to-date facilities, modern vehicles, and effective administrative practices. The business also offered new services such as funeral insurance to defray costs for grieving families, as well as air service to transport deceased persons who may have passed away far from home.
In the 1950s, A. William Bailey married Roy Hatch’s daughter, Roberta, and joined the Wilkirson-Hatch family business, and eventually rose in rank to run the funeral home. In the 1970s, Bailey’s son and current company president, Hatch Bailey, felt drawn to the same line of work as his father after experiencing the comfort that the funeral home provided following the death of his grandparents. He began working part time at the home in 1979 while a student at Baylor University and began a full-time position upon graduating. Hatch Bailey became president in the 1990s, with his two brothers, Wes and Roy, serving on the board of directors. Shortly after becoming president, Bailey purchased a new location on Bosque Boulevard to better serve families in the Woodway area. Some years later, this Bosque Boulevard office became the sole location of Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey, and remains so to this day.
Throughout his tenure as president, Bailey has consistently implemented new ideas to keep the funeral home and its services poised to meet the needs of Waco families. For example, the funeral home was one of the first buildings in Waco to have stained concrete flooring, installed to amplify the noise level to avoid an unnatural quietness that might make visitors feel uncomfortable. Modern technology has also shaped the way the funeral home functions, with half of all services using pre-recorded and selected music, and live-streams of services being commonly available. Hatch Bailey’s sons have begun to participate in the operations of the funeral home, comprising the fifth generation of workers from a single extended family.
Bailey now sees his funeral home less as a business than as a ministry to grieving families. With its focus on providing comfort and familial services and a history of innovation, Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home will likely continue to provide an important array of services to the Waco community.