At the recent funeral service for Indianapolis actress and model Helen Whitelowe at Crown Hill Cemetery, mourners laughed and also wept, as they heard both spoken and musical tributes from poet Mari Evans, modeling agency owner Helen Wells, Rev. Marvin Chandler, Fred Darden, and many others.
Then the procession went out into the November chill to the “scattering grounds,” where the ashes of Whitelowe, the founder of “Soul People Repertory Company,” were to be solemnly distributed beneath a tree.
To the strains of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” four wicker baskets were slowly opened, and a quartet of white doves soared into the gray skies above the cemetery stones.
Local businessman Kendall Williams, the owner and operator of Dove Express, said he was proud to have contributed to Whitelowe’s Nov. 15 service, as he has many others.
“The four doves symbolize the spirit of the person ascending to heaven,” explained 40-year-old Williams. “It’s a final farewell for the families and a final goodbye which provides comfort.”
But the doves are also in demand for other celebrations marking life’s milestones, especially weddings, said Williams.
“The doves mate for life, and are also a symbol of love,” he said. “They also faithfully return home.”
Williams said that in the dove release business, it’s important to maintain good working relationships with area churches and funeral homes. He commented that he’s come out to services officiated by clergy from Eastern Star, Phillips Temple, and area Catholic congregations, and has also worked with numerous local funeral homes including Stuart Mortuary and Ellis Mortuary.
For Williams, the dove release business has been a father and son affair.
He has been trained since childhood by his stepfather, George Chatman, 56, whom he calls Dad.
“Dad has always had birds, birds have been his hobby,” said Williams. “He taught me vaccination, breeding, training everything.”
George Chatman said he’s proud of his son’s success and work ethic. “He’s done a lot better than I would have done. When (Williams) starts something, he goes for it, he sees it to the finish.”
Williams said his entry into the family business has delighted his mother, Joy Chatman. “I think she really liked it, and she saw Dad was really pleased,” he said.
The amount of money that one can earn through the dove release business varies, depending on factors including how much time one has to develop and market the business, as well as climate. Warmer temperatures result in more business, Williams said.
The cost to clients depends upon how many doves they wish to release, he said. Packages typically range from $50 to $300.
The dove release business is not a get-rich-quick scheme, Williams emphasized. The birds require time and attention. “I exercise them daily, feed them, clean their cages,” he said. “These guys depend on me every day for food and to protect them. Although they can fly, they depend on me. And dove releases must happen no later than an hour before sunset.”
When he does not want the females to lay eggs, Williams places wooden replicas into their nest to prevent them from brooding.
In the future, Williams would like to do more presentations about the doves with area schools and retirement communities.
In the past, he worked with at-risk youth, and commented that he grew his locs (hair) out on a dare, to challenge one young man he was mentoring to raise his grades. When children see the doves, they’re excited and want to learn more, he said.
And for those who have read thus far, Williams has a secret for you: doves and white homing pigeons are technically the same species, Columbidae.
For more information about Dove Express, visit whitedoveascension.com.
Considering starting your own dove release business? See: whitedovesociety.com.
To learn more about keeping pigeons as a hobby, see Indianapolis Racing Pigeon Club: indyrpc.com.