(CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth) Kevin Ducan, left, and Russell Muffley talk as another round of coffee is poured last week at Muffley’s back door during morning coffee.
Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer
The front door to Muffley Funeral Home brings people face to face with death. Just a few feet away, through the rear entrance, is a room full of life.
At 8 a.m. each weekday, a group of men meet for coffee at Muffley’s back door, a bright-red room decorated with old record albums and a 1955 Chevy mural.
They joke and pick on each other, talk about local politics, tell stories of days gone by, inquire about new construction around town and even ask each other how their diets are going.
It is an eclectic group of regulars — a city commissioner, a retired insurance agent who likes to make peanut brittle, a retired floral designer who is a full-time Santa Claus, a builder, an Indian-jewelry trader, and a retired restaurant owner who ran, yet lost, in Tuesday’s school board election.
“If there’s not anything exciting going on in town, we make it up,” joked Frank Muscato, the retired restaurant owner.
Group members said they started a rumor years ago that Hotel Clovis would be turned into a road-kill processing plant.
“I think the main thing in this business, is you have to have some kind of release,” said Kevin Duncan, the funeral director at Muffley and the mayor pro tem.
The group began meeting at Muffley’s back door in 1988, but its get-togethers started 22 years ago. That’s when former radio station employee Jim Davis, the late Patrick Davidson, Muffley Funeral Home owner Russell Muffley and Muscato began meeting for coffee each morning in the KCLV radio station.
There was only room for four people to sit in the room — three on the couch and one in a chair.
Then, the chair broke. When they were unsuccessful in persuading the owner of the building to buy them a new chair, they moved to Muffley’s Funeral Home.
They met in the office until the building expanded in 1988 to include a break room.
Other groups have begun to make use of what has become known as Muffley’s back door.
Altrusa, the Pilot’s Club and an insurance group meet there. The coffee group has its annual Christmas party there, too.
Former City Manager Ray Mondragon has made the group breakfast — which members said is very good — and current City Manager Joe Thomas stopped by as recently as Monday morning.
There have been mornings where more than 15 men have come for coffee — and stories, Muffley said.
Last week the group had plenty to share with a reporter.
Among the stories was that of a local bootlegger who sold booze on Sundays, which is prohibited. When he died in the 1980s, the coffee group served as pallbearers in his funeral.
Group members said they stood at Farwell Cemetery with an audience of cows and watched as his casket was lowered into a cement-lined hole and covered with cement pouring out of a truck.
“If they want to dig him up they are going to have to go from underneath,” Muffley said.
The group teased Duncan about falling in a grave years ago that had been covered with artificial grass. Muffley defended his funeral director, saying it happened to him too, and the preacher just kept on preaching. Everybody got a laugh.
They picked on Raymond Adkins, the peanut-brittle making insurance salesman, for being so “tight.” Muffley joked that Adkins invented copper wire by rubbing two pennies together for a long time.
Regardless of their teasing, there is a feeling of friendship and kindness that fills Muffley’s back door in the morning hours.
Muffley remembers the impact on one man.
The man had retired, undergone heart surgery and didn’t want to leave the house.
Then he started coming to the coffee group, the first one to arrive each morning.
His wife said had it not been for coming in Muffley’s back door, he may have been coming in the front.
“It gave him a reason to wake up in the morning,” Muffley said.