In Memoriam: Adrian F. Boylston, Jr.

Editor’s note: The article below includes excerpts from the profile published in the January, 2014, issue of The CFSA Newsletter, when Mr. Boylston was honored for winning the 2013 CFSA Lifetime Recognition Award, as well as from Funeral Service Insider ( 

True gentleman. True professional.

They’re the words used time and again to describe Adrian F. Boylston, Jr., former publisher and president of Kates-Boylston Publications, who died August 29, 2014, in Hilton Head Hospital, Hilton Head, South Carolina. He was 87. Kates-Boylston Publications, now owned by United Communications Group, is the parent company of American Funeral Director and American Cemetery magazines and Funeral Service Insider.

“Adrian was a true gentleman and a true professional,” says John Yopp III, publisher and editor of Southern Funeral Director magazine. “He was one of the first individuals I was introduced to when I entered the funeral profession, and I could always count on him having a meaningful and insightful conversation about the funeral and cemetery industries.”

To know the remarkable life story and impressive accomplishments of Adrian Boylston, you almost have to believe in destiny.  His great-grandfather was a New York “Undertaker” in the late 1800’s, succeeded by his grandfather in the same profession, and then followed by Adrian’s father who co-founded Kates-Boylston Publications in 1924.  Even with that pedigree before him, Adrian relied on his own skills and ambition to craft his own lifetime achievements, including becoming the publisher of American Funeral Director, American Cemetery, and the American Blue Book of Funeral Directors.

After a period of years building his career in magazine publishing, Adrian eventually began working full time for his father in 1959 when he took over the Midwest territory for Kates-Boylston Publications and moved his family from New York to Chicago. 

All of that changed in 1967.  As Adrian recalls, “The big change in the lives of everyone in the Boylston family came suddenly with a phone call late in the evening on June 10, 1967.  The message was an unexpected and straight shock.  My father, Adrian F. Boylston, Sr., was dead from a heart attack.  We were to have been together at the C.M.A convention in San Francisco in two weeks.  Instead, I was on the first morning plane from Chicago to New York.”

Adrian’s distinguished career yielded an impressive litany of awards and honors.  Among them are: Hall of Fame, National Museum of Funeral History; Hall of Fame, ICCFA; a special recognition award from CFSA in 2003; and, the 2013 CFSA Lifetime Recognition Award.

“The news of Adrian’s death has placed a sad spirit upon me as well as an empty feeling in all of us within the death-care industry,” says funeral director Paul Davidson. “The last time I spoke with Sir Adrian, we were attending a Southern Convention in Hilton Head. There are but that handful of people in life, who you know your visit is not complete without seeing and chatting with. When time was spent, even shortly, with Adrian, I knew my visit was complete.”

Arrangements were under the direction of The Island Funeral Home & Crematory, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  The CFSA officers, board of directors, and staff extend their sincerest condolences to the Boylston family.