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Published: Tuesday, 5/8/2007

Funeral home's co-owner was industry pioneer

E. Genevieve Dale, 91, who ran the city's largest black-owned funeral home with her husband and became the first woman and black to serve as president of the Northwest Ohio Funeral Directors Association, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday in Swan Creek Retirement Village in South Toledo.

For more than 45 years, Mrs. Dale and the late Clarence J. "Jack" Dale co-owned and operated Dale Funeral Home at City Park and Nebraska avenues in Toledo's central city.

While Mr. Dale founded the business in 1946, they operated the funeral home together. She generally managed the office and bookkeeping while he handled arrangements and funerals. "Their partnership was always 50-50," her son, Allen, said.

Like her husband, Mrs. Dale was a licensed funeral director and during her career held various positions with the Northwest Ohio Funeral Directors Association. In 1977, she became the first woman of any race to be elected its president.

"The women members were so happy that I made it to the top," Mrs. Dale recalled in an 2000 Blade interview. "They were determined to show these men how it should be done."

Born Emma Genevieve Allen in Urbana, Ohio, she was the first black valedictorian of Urbana High School in 1933 and went on to study on a scholarship at Urbana College, now Urbana University.

Allen Dale said his mother unwittingly brought integration to the campus, as the college initially tried holding separate classes just for her before finally allowing her to integrate with the regular student body.

"She excelled, and as a consequence, broke down racial barriers that have since been recognized," her son said.

She and her husband moved to Toledo after they married in 1940, and Mrs. Dale was a claims examiner for the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation during World War II. In 1946, the Dales bought the E.B. Wanzo Funeral Home at the site of the current funeral home.

The Dales sold their business in 1992, although Mrs. Dale continued to work at the funeral home for five more years. Mr. Dale did not retire until shortly before his death in 2002.

Sheryl Riggs has been the funeral home's managing directing since the sale.

Mrs. Dale was also the first black female deputy motor vehicle registrar in northwest Ohio, and for a time operated the license bureau out of the funeral home.

She was a founding member of the Toledo Chapter of The Girl Friends Inc. and belonged to Links Inc., the NAACP, and All Saints' Episcopal Church.

Surviving are her son, Allen, and four grandchildren.

Visitation will be after 4 p.m. tomorrow and after 2 p.m. Thursday at the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home Chapel, 572 Nebraska Ave., where wake services will at 6 p.m. Thursday. Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in All Saints' Episcopal Church, 563 Pinewood Ave.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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