Move continues legacy of minority-owned family business
Seeking to expand its commitment to provide the death care experience with new traditions in Milwaukee and continue a legacy of service, Paradise Memorial Funeral Home & Cremation Services has assumed ownership of the Leon L. Williamson Funeral Home, Paradise Memorial owners Mr. Marcel A. Clarke and Dr. Camelia L. Clarke announced Friday, July 8, 2022.
Mr. Leon L. Williamson has owned the Leon L. Williamson Funeral Home for more than 63 years and has retired.
“We are proud to bring Leon L. Williamson into the Paradise Memorial family, combining two legacy black businesses that are deeply committed to celebrating life within our Milwaukee community,” said Carmelia Clarke, a licensed funeral director (LFD). “The Williamson name is synonymous with high standards, something we will continue to uphold as we help families with their loved ones’ final transitions.”
“It is a true honor and privilege for our family business to go to our trusted friends and colleagues, Mr. Marcel Clarke and Dr. Camelia Clarke. It was a natural choice to make,” Leon and his wife Mary Williamson said. “The Clarkes’ expertise, integrity and compassion are unmatched.”
Leon Williamson’s father, the late Lamar, founded the company in 1950 in a converted residence on North 7th Street in Milwaukee. At the time, it was one of only three funeral homes in the city serving African Americans. In 1960, Lamar moved the funeral home to its present location at 2157 N. 12th Street. Leon joined the family business in 1966 and assumed ownership when his father died. The Leon L. Williamson Funeral Home has been a community pillar and anchor during this time, serving thousands of Milwaukee families for almost 75 years.
Marcel and Camelia plan to continue Williamson’s legacy of excellence by completing an entire interior and exterior renovation of the funeral home, including adding a full-service florist to the building. They do not plan to change the Leon L. Williamson name.
In 2001, Camelia L. Clarke, John O. Bell, LFD, William R. Stark and Ava N. Carter founded Paradise Memorial Funeral Home. Camelia and Marcel Clarke became sole owners in 2016 and changed the name to Paradise Memorial Funeral & Cremation Services.
Camelia has substantial expertise in death care, entrepreneurship, strategic management, diversity, inclusion and equity. She earned a Doctor of Business Administration degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, an executive MBA from Marquette University, an international business certificate from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, a Bachelor of Science degree from Cardinal Stritch University and a diploma from the Worsham College of Mortuary Science. She has multiple national and international publications and working papers, including on minority-owned entrepreneurial organizations. Camelia has served on leadership councils and boards and was recently elected to the Board of Directors of Federated Insurance Companies, one of the largest mutual insurance companies in the country. In this role, she helps manage the organization’s nearly $20-billion in revenue, assets and premiums.
Marcel has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southern University A&M, a historically black college, a bachelor’s degree in business management and entrepreneurial studies from Herzing University, an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and a degree in applied science from the Worsham College of Mortuary Science.
Marcel is active in the Milwaukee community and has served on numerous boards of directors and community organizations, including the Beckum/Stapleton Little League Board of Directors and the Clarence Parrish Foundation.
“Every day, our Paradise team members ask themselves, ‘How will you be remembered?’ ” Camelia said. “We will always remember and honor the excellence Mr. and Mrs. Williamson have given to the city and community, particularly as pioneering black business owners.”
Read more about Paradise Memorial and Cremation Services at https://www.paradisememorialfuneralhome.com.