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home : obituaries : ask the funeral director
June 17, 2019


8/2/2012 7:40:00 AM
"Living above the store"

Pat Fahrenkrug
Community outreach director/funeral director


When I was a young boy, I always wished I had grown up in a funeral home. I know, weird right? That's what my parents thought too. I don't know where it came from but it somehow intrigued me.

One of my favorite movies to this day is "My Girl" which takes place in 1972, starring Dan Akroyd who plays a funeral director raising his daughter while living at the funeral home they owned. After I became a funeral director, I would always make reference to this movie whenever I gave a tour of the funeral home because it really was a true depiction of what it was like growing up and raising a family in a funeral home. I wanted people, especially kids, to know that it wasn't spooky or creepy. It was simply, a way of life.

Some of you may remember that years ago, the family that owned the funeral home always lived there. It was the rule rather than the exception. It really was the way of life for the funeral director and his family. It wasn't all that different than the family who owned and lived above the neighborhood grocery store, except that the funeral home was open 24 hours a day.

Back in "The Olden Day's" there were no answering services and the telephone was the "constant companion" to the funeral director. Except it wasn't clipped to the belt. It weighed about 10 pounds and one sat in just about every room in the house on a table with a lamp, pad of paper, and a pen. The children were informed that they were never ever to touch this phone (unless it rang more than three times). Often times mom and the kids would go to church while dad stayed home in case the phone rang and there was a death. Dad would go to church at a different time. When there was a funeral or a visitation going on, the kids had to be quiet. There was to be no "roughhousing" or record player (yes record player) or TV turned on until everyone was gone from the funeral home. Distraught families would call or show up at the door at all hours of the day and night. It was the way of life for the funeral director and his family.

As the years moved on, more and more funeral home families moved away from the funeral home for one reason or another. To live at the funeral home today is the exception rather than the rule. The older funeral homes still have the residence, but most of them now sit empty. When I came to work for the Wieting family I was delighted to find out that Daniel, (who is the third generation funeral director in his family) and his wife Jamie and their children still live at the funeral home. Every day I get to witness what it's like for a family to live at the funeral home. There are always children outside playing or in the office putting puzzles together, coloring or drawing pictures. In the afternoon, quite often you here the buzzing sound of the baby monitor... always on alert in case one of them wakes up from a nap. You might often find the kids helping their mom or dad or grandpa or grandma clean the funeral home or wash the cars. And after hours, when the outside door to the funeral home is locked, there is a sign that says, "if this door is locked please come to the house door." The business of funerals at Wieting's is truly a family affair. It's still... "like it used to be."

Before this article goes to print I will show it to Daniel to make sure it looks okay. He might say, why is this interesting? He might say this because this is a normal life for him and not really interesting at all. After all he has lived in a funeral home for his whole life. It is the way of life for him and his family. Just like it was for his father and his grandfather, and just like it more than likely will be for generations to come. I may not have gotten my wish to grow up in a funeral home, but I'm glad that I have gotten to witness and share in the experience.













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