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Baseball Star Andre Dawson On Running A Funeral Home During The Pandemic


A Hall of Fame ballplayer is doing something truly valuable now. Andre Dawson, known as The Hawk for his defensive skills, also put up big numbers as a hitter during his 21-year career, most with the Montreal Expos and the Chicago Cubs. But in retirement from baseball, Andre Dawson now owns and runs, with his wife, Vanessa, the Paradise Memorial Funeral Home in Miami. Andre Dawson, who is still a special assistant with the Cubs, joins us now. Mr. Dawson, thanks so much for being with us.

ANDRE DAWSON: Thank you. It's my pleasure.

SIMON: How did you get into the funeral business?

DAWSON: Actually, it kind of fell into my lap. I came aboard as an investor. I can remember making the comment, you know, who would've ever thought?

SIMON: Have you learned that it's a business that's important to people?

DAWSON: Almost definite. I made a comment to my staff. I said, we got to perform for people who are really in dire need at that time to help get through the healing process. And the good thing about it is I look at it as an extension of the church - two different pastors who are part of my staff, and I have people that sing in church choirs that are a part of the staff. So, you know, they're all along, full board.

SIMON: And I have to ask, does it ever happen that you introduce yourself and somebody says, oh, Andre Dawson, like the ballplayer?

DAWSON: I don't get a lot - I get a lot of calls at the funeral home I'm usually in, people inquiring, is it the Andre Dawson that was the baseball player? But there are families that come in. And, you know, people want to put the face with the name. And it's just gratifying that I'm able to be there to help them through this process. I try not to speak or say too much. You want to be a listener more so than anything else.

SIMON: What do you tell people who might've said to you in recent weeks, you know, it's hard for me to mourn, it's hard for me to say goodbye when it's just a few people around here and we can't invite our friends? And what do you say?

DAWSON: If I can honestly just say to an individual - because some people never really heal. Some people never get through the process. And I just, you know, try to remind them that God is in control. And you got to look at it in a sense that this is a loved one that's passed on. We - we're all going to have to go down this road eventually one day. But just remember the good times. We don't want to remember a person - we don't want to remember a person if they were suffering during their bad days. You want to remember the good times.

And as I said, the process is so draining in itself. You can't really put yourself in the position that that person is in at that time because we don't grieve the same way. But I just try to say, I'm always available. I'm here for you. And we're just trying to help you along the way.

SIMON: Sounds like you're doing real MVP work now, Mr. Dawson.

DAWSON: Well, I tell you this is different. This is not fans cheering. This is not fun and excitement. And I learned from the game itself how humbling life can be and how you could be on, you know, top of the world one day, and the next day, you could cause your ballclub to lose the game. So you got to stay humble. And you got to take all of it with, you know, what it is. And in this business, it's what it is. It's what I signed up for. So I spend a lot of time in deep thought. And I don't really pretend to know it all and know a great deal. So this is - you know, this is not about me, as I mentioned. It's about doing the right thing and being able to provide the necessary means for people to get through their struggle.

SIMON: Andre Dawson - yup, that one - owns and operates the Paradise Memorial Funeral Home in Miami. Thanks so much, Mr. Dawson.

DAWSON: It's my pleasure. Stay safe. God bless you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.