M RS. GERTRUDE POCTE GEDDES WILLIS
was almost 22 years old when 1900 arrived and had almost 78 more birthdays in her future. Her family moved to New Orleans during her early childhood, and she eventually married into one of the families whose name was associated with the funeral business. Her first marriage was to Clem Geddes who died in 1913. He was one of the three sons of George Geddes, pioneer in the funeral business who had a establishment on Rampart Street. His other sons also established separate funeral buinesses. One became proprietor of Joseph P. Geddes Funeral Home, and the other became co-proprietor of Geddes and Richards Funeral Home. In 1919 she became the wife of a local dentist and businessman, Dr. William A. Willis, who died in 1947.
Clem and Arnold Moss Had established Geddes & Moss Undertaking Parlor in 1909. After the deaths of her husbands and partner, Gertrude filed for reorganization and renamed the business Gertrude Geddes Willis Funeral Home and Life Insurance Company, which name it bears today. She expanded the facility and increased services.
Probably the fact that she was hailed as a millionaire would seem less important to her than her community services and professional impact on other African-American women who desired to enter the same business. She advised, assisted, and encouraged several of those who sought her counsel. It was also her practice to hold membership in civic, social, and fraternal organizations. Included among these were local, state and national associations of funeral directors. Memberships in Crescent City Funeral Directors and Embalming Association of New Orleans and the National Insurance Association NIA provided opportunity for her to meet with fellow professionals. It was her pleasure to hold office in the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver Court #52 of Holy Ghost Catholic Church which she served as treasurer for many years. She was a member of the NAACP, Urban League, and other Organizations, continuing to maintain an interest in some of the social clubs to which male members of her family belonged, such as the Orignal Illinois and the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club.