The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Author, The Undertaker’s Wife, (2015)

Licensed funeral director in the state of Virginia

Socialite widow of John Oliver who was a fourth generation funeral director

Received a degree in Art Education from Virginia Wesleyan

Received a Mortuary Science degree from Tidewater Community College

Writes in her blog, Going Out in Style

Serves on the Virginia Beach Planning Commission

Three daughters: Jacquie, 21, Madison, 19, and Aven, 18

Guest Bio

Dee Oliver Shares Wisdom Gained from Being “The Undertaker’s Wife”


Dee never dreamed she would fall in love with a funeral director. She was twenty one years old when she met Johnnie -- a handsome thirty-five-year old man in a pinstriped suit. On their first date, Johnnie explained he was “on call.” Dee did not know what “on call” meant until he swung by the funeral home, changed into a black pinstriped suit, and asked her to get into a black station wagon. Dee recalls, “I heard a noise that sounded like someone had opened the station wagon’s rear door…I felt a jolt that knocked me forward in my seat…lo and behold I was no longer alone.” Two years later, Dee and Johnnie were married.

After a few years, Dee was ready to start a family, but grew frustrated after learning that Johnnie had a vasectomy prior to meeting her. Shocked and angry at Johnnie’s revelation, Dee dropped to her knees and asked God for help. Dee forgave Johnnie for not telling her about the vasectomy and Johnnie decided to get the vasectomy reversed. The odds of the operation working were about one in a million. Dee began talking to God every day, reminding Him of Johnnie’s situation and asking Him to please “fix it.” Dee was not the only one praying; Johnnie had also taken up praying himself. In the summer of 1991, their prayers were answered. Dee gave birth to Jacquie in 1992, followed by Madison in 1994, and Aven sixteen months later. “Our house was full, our prayers had been answered, and I didn’t think I could be any happier,” reveals Dee.


In 2007, Dee returned home after a trip to Florida with her girlfriends. Johnnie had stayed behind and taken care of the girls. Dee loved Johnnie for being a good father and a great son-in-law to her parents. That night, Johnnie had a stroke. Two days later he died and Dee’s life was changed forever. After the funeral, Dee told her daughters: “God was not punishing us. He had blessed our family, and He was not going to stop. He would take care of us. He would, as He promised in the Bible, meet all our needs, and they could absolutely, positively look forward to seeing their precious daddy in heaven.”

Now a single mom with three daughters to raise Dee went back to work at the H.D. Oliver funeral home. Johnnie always encouraged Dee to get her mortuary degree so she decided to go back to school. She worked at the funeral home by day and went to class at night. Two years later, she had her degree, but in order for her license to be approved Dee had to complete an internship. She approached her brother-in-law about doing an internship at the family business, but was devastated when he told her no. Then Dee was presented with an opportunity to complete her internship at Paul Riddick’s funeral home, a funeral home that catered to the African American community in Norfolk. “The funeral business is, hands down, the most culturally segregated industry in America. Nobody takes offense; it just is what it is,” shares Dee. Although reluctant at first she knew she needed to accept the job offer. As the weeks passed, Dee began to grow more comfortable in her new job. She grew to respect the wisdom and warmth of Mr. Riddick. “Rarely had I known anyone so quick to extend a helping hand or so ready to offer strength and protection in the face of poverty or injustice.” Paul, P.J. (Paul’s son) and Yvonne (the housekeeper) welcomed Dee not just as a business associate but also as a friend. “If there is one thing I learned from my time at Riddick, it’s that we’re all basically the same,” reveals Dee. Most of us don’t like to think about death and even fewer of us take the time to plan for it.                                                                                                      


Dee offers the following advice to help you and your spouse or loved one prepare for the inevitable:

  • Talk about their preferences for headstones, caskets, and where you should buy a cemetery plot
  • Write your own obituary - It is so important to have that done. It takes the pressure off of your family at the most stressful time in their lives.
  • Talk about pink jobs (female jobs) and blue jobs (male jobs) - A blue job might be establishing your ac/heating company or bug company. And, a pink job might be knowing who is your child’s pediatrician
  • Make sure to establish a will and keep it updated
  • Make sure you have life insurance
  • Select a funeral home
  • Choose a family owned funeral home because they have better ties to the local community
  • Ask for a price list
  • If you’re unhappy with the service you initially receive at the funeral home your loved one is located at you can switch to another funeral home.
  • Write a love letter to your spouse or your loved one and have them write one to you then seal it up and put it in a place you will know where to find it. The letter should include:
    • a list of the banks you do business with, along with account numbers and any necessary passwords
    • information about any safety deposit boxes (along with where to find the key)
    • information about stocks, bonds, or other investments
    • the location of important documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.
    • instructions and information about how to access social security benefits
    • names and phone numbers of your lawyer, accountant, etc.
    • passwords for any important websites


“It’s been nearly seven years since Johnnie died. Somewhere along the way, maybe around the five year mark, I realized I was still standing upright and moving forward and so thankfully were the girls,” shares Dee. She says prayer has sustained her and the girls throughout the chaos and uncertainty of this experience. Every morning since Johnnie’s death, Dee shows up with her coffee, her Bible and talks to God. She thanks God for taking care of her and the girls. “My girls have a strength and fortitude that wasn’t there before, and they are filled with qualities like grace and mercy. They have been gifted with an understanding that, I think, extends beyond their years; they know what is important, what really matters. None of which would have happened if our lives hadn’t taken the twist and turns that came with Johnnie’s death. As for me, well, I have always understood that life is a gift and a blessing — after all, I am a funeral director.

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