CHICAGO (CBS) — Renowned South Side funeral director Lafayette Gatling Sr. has died.

Gatling was 81.

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Gatling’s family announced that he died Tuesday. Born in 1940, Gatling went on to build three Gatling Funeral Homes – including one at 10133 S. Halsted St. where many Chicago families who lost their loved ones to violence held their funerals.

Gatling offered the families hope and healing, and sometimes conducted their funeral arrangements for free.

Gatling was a native of Seaboard, North Carolina. His mother passed away when he was 5 years old, while his father, Raymond Gatling, was away fighting in World War II.

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“It was through this traumatic experience of losing his mother and waiting six months for his father that the 5-year-old Lafayette envisioned providing comfort to those experiencing the loss of their loved one. As a child, pretending to do funeral services in his North Carolina backyard to building one of the largest funeral homes in the country; that seed of sorrow created a harvest of help, hope and healing to millions within the greater Chicagoland area,” read a news release from Gatling Community Development.

Lafayette Gatling

Lafayette Gatling (Credit: Gatling Community Development)

Gatling was also a certified general contractor and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, and he physically built Gatling’s Chapel Chicago with his hands, the release noted.

Gatling his survived by his wife, Marguerite, three children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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Funeral arrangements were pending Tuesday night.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff