By Jenna DeWitt
Tucumcari celebrates the 100th anniversary of the city’s incorporation this year.
Dunn Funeral Home has an anniversary of its own.
At 90, it’s one of the oldest continually operated businesses in the city.
Charles Dunn said his family came to Tucumcari in 1903 when Charles’ grandfather, Elton Dunn, moved from Vernon, Texas, with his mother and brother. The small family lived off of a garden, a yard full of animals and Elton’s wages. He worked at the Eager Grocery Store at first, but later worked as a firefighter for the railroad, according to Lynn Moncus’ book, “Quay County 1903-1985.”
By 1918, Charles said, Elton was the city clerk. Since his office was next door to the undertaker’s office, Elton would often help his neighbor. That same year, an influenza epidemic hit Tucumcari, and the funeral director wasn’t spared. He sold the business to Elton, who received a license as an embalmer. Elton’s wife Fidelia Dunn soon earned her embalming license as well.
Two years later, the business moved to its current location at 115 Third St. Charles’ daughter Cathy Dunn Tapia of Clovis said the building was previously an opera house.
“There is also an apartment building up there. Eventually we added a house to the side,” she said.
The business continued under the direction of Clifton Dunn, Elton and Fidelia’s son. After college in Kansas and training at the University of Minnesota, Clifton moved back to Tucumcari with his own license, and his wife Helen, whom he met in Kansas.
Family described Clifton as “a tall, quiet man, but he was very respected,” Tapia remembered.
Following Clifton’s death in 1985, Helen kept the business running. She was active in civic clubs throughout her life.
“She was the glue that held everything together there; with my dad, they kept it going,” Tapia said.
After Helen’s death in 2003, Moncus told the Quay County Sun, “She was always helping others quietly through monetary ways, or with love. When someone needed help she saw they got it and nobody knew about it.”
Helen and Clifton had two sons, Charles and John. John is in the radio business in Roswell.
In addition to funeral home duties, Charles Dunn served as a medical examiner for the state almost 26 years, until Sept. 1, 2007. Charles said he completed more than 1,000 investigations in his career.
Tapia said her dad’s help during the difficult time of a funeral is not forgotten.
“I’ve run into so many people who have had funerals. People say ‘your dad made me comfortable and calm.’ Even now people come up to me,” said Tapia, a 1997 Tucumcari High School graduate.
The Dunn name also lives on in a park at Fourth Street and Washington Avenue. Elton Dunn donated money for Tucumcari’s first hospital, and the site became a park after the hospital was torn down.
“We didn’t know anything about it,” Charles Dunn said. “Somebody said Dunn Park and we didn’t know what they were talking about, but I guess the city named it.”
Tapia said the park is one of the largest in the city and hosts Easter egg hunts, parties and other events.
Charles Dunn looks to the next 100 years with a focus on the future generations. “I hope something comes and keeps Tucumcari perking along. Education is the key to everything,” he said.