Originally created 12/21/05

Residence might have some ghostly visitors

About 30,000 services have been conducted out of George Funeral Homes' Park Avenue location in the past 56 years, said owner Ray Visotski.

The three-story building that houses the funeral home was known as Deodara - for the giant cedars that grew on the property - when it was built about 1869.

Mr. Visotski said old photographs show a huge tree in front of the house where people had placed pots to catch honey from a bee's nest. A large pit next to the covered brick drive indicates the spot where an expansive root system once anchored the tree.

George Funeral Homes, which was founded in 1920 on Richland Avenue by D.M. George, was the fourth licensed funeral home in the state. Mr. George had three sons, Albert, Edward and Otto, who also were involved in the business.

The funeral service relocated to Park Avenue in 1949 after the family purchased Deodara, a former Winter Colony residence, from the Snow estate. Albert George ran the enterprise until his death in 1976, and Joe McClellan, a longtime employee of the funeral home, bought the business.

Ray and Alicia Visotski became the third owners of the funeral home when they purchased it in 1999.

The 8,500-square-foot house includes a basement, two main floors and a spartan upper level that once served as servants' quarters.

The Visotskis have renovated the home to its former glory, along with adding a few modern touches. A small, plain room where "poor people were laid out" is now a children's playroom, Mr. Visotski said.

The leaded glass in some of the window panes are a reminder of the home's earlier days.

The Sgt. Walter H. "Cookie" Baughman visitation room has a watercolor that was painted by actor Jimmy Stewart, who stayed in the house overnight and entertained the troops when it was a USO hotel during World War II. A portrait of the late James P. "Pete" Moseley, who was a caretaker for the property, also hangs on the wall.

The Visotskis gained a number of antiques when they bought the property. Families sometimes used heirlooms to barter for funeral services.

The antiques include a grandfather clock with a serial number that dates back to 1791.

"The clock keeps perfect time," Mr. Visotski said.

A ghost or two might have come with the house as well.

"Edward George is still here. We have a couple of doors that open and close when there are no breezes," Mr. Visotski said. "That story was handed down to me."

From time to time, he said, people will wander into the funeral home and share a tale about the Aiken landmark.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.


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