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  • Former undertaker to celebrities cooks up second career
    SOUP’S ON: Craig “Digger” Hall, founder of the Pioneer Chile Company, has always loved to cook. He is shown here making soup at the Coast Guard base in Galveston. COURTESY OF CRAIG HALL
  • Former undertaker to celebrities cooks up second career
    LASTING FRIENDSHIP: During the time that Craig “Digger” Hall and his family lived in the Los Angeles area in the 1990s, they developed a close friendship with former “Dallas” star Charlene Tilton. That friendship continues today. Digger is shown h

Former undertaker to celebrities cooks up second career

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Craig “Digger” Hall was a supervisor at Forest Lawn cemetery in Hollywood Hills, Calif. during the 1990s when his brother, then a Tarleton professor, told him he must visit a great place called Granbury.

Hall did visit Granbury, and when the native Texan eventually decided to move back home, he rented a house near the Granbury Square with his wife Donnelle.

Although Hall continued working in the funeral industry for a few more years after moving to Hood County, he retired in 2018 and started a second career as the founder of Digger’s Pioneer Chile Company.

His products, including hot sauces, meat rubs and seasoned salt, are sold at Roots Fresh Produce Market at 1735 E. US Hwy. 377. His Digger’s Texas Dynamite Chili Fixins is packaged to look like a stick of dynamite.

Hall alaso sells his products to several restaurants in the region.

“I’ve always been interested in cooking and hot sauces,” Hall said. “I manufacture about five different levels of hot sauce, mild to Carolina Reaper.”

Carolina Reaper is not a reference to the Grim Reaper, at least not as it pertains to Hall’s undertaker past. It is the name of an actual pepper that is red, gnarled and exceptionally hot.

Although Hall found success in post-retirement entrepreneurship, his prior career was one of the reasons the HCN asked him to be its first interview subject for the newspaper’s new, soon-to launch podcast series “Cruz Around Granbury.”

During his time at Forest Lawn, which he calls “the Super Bowl of funeral homes,” Hall helped plan the final goodbyes for celebrities and their loved ones.

He is the reason Gene Autry was buried in his cowboy boots, Telly Savalas (TV’s “Kojak”) was laid to rest with lollipops in his shoes, and actor/director/producer Ron Howard was able to decorate the chapel for his mother’s funeral the way he knew she would have wanted.

Hall’s encounters with celebrities included the still-very-much-alive Charlene Tilton, one of the stars of the hit television series “Dallas.” The show aired from 1978 to 1991.

Tilton was one of the Hall family’s neighbors, and a frequent dinner guest.

A family friendship flourished after Hall’s daughter Jill, then a young actress who appeared in music videos and on TV’s “Ally McBeal,” became school chums with Cherish Lee, the daughter Tilton shares with former husband and country singer Johnny Lee.

Hall’s celebrities tales are detailed in the upcoming episode of “Cruz Around Granbury.” | 817-573-7066, ext. 267



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