Anderson Funeral Home partners with Breckenridge family
Family funeral homes are dying. Traditionally a blood-to-blood inheritance, recent generations have been choosing to explore careers outside of what has been naturally adopted by their ancestors. Anderson Funeral Home in Alexandria revealed it has joined the gild of family funeral homes to cease tradition.
"After four generations, this was not an easy decision for my brother and I," said Tom Anderson. "We had to make some kind of a plan in case our children don't want to continue the practice."
In 2011, it became apparent that Tom and David Anderson's children did not wish to pursue an immediate future in funeral service. The family business now faces a day when an Anderson will not be at the helm.
"Children are presented with more options and opportunities these days," Anderson said. "The world is so big, my wife and I didn't want to confine our children."
Tom's eldest son, Kreg, is studying aerospace at the University of North Dakota. Tom's youngest, Jack, is a freshman in high school and David's daughter, Sophie, is in elementary school.
Anderson Funeral Home's roots date back to 1872 when John Anderson started the first funeral home in Alexandria on the site that is now the Hennen's Furniture store on Broadway. Trained as a cabinet maker, John was recruited by the community to build caskets; from that trade, the company evolved.
To date, the Anderson family has provided an estimated 20,000 services. The first was five years prior to Custer's Last Stand, Anderson noted.
A partnership has been formed to secure the funeral home's presence in the years to come. Minnesota-based company Vertin Family Funeral Homes out of Breckenridge, approximately 70 miles from Alexandria, acquired the Anderson business in Alexandria on August 1. Thomas Vertin is a third generation funeral director.
"I've known Tom Vertin for 15 years," Anderson said. "I admire that he has kept funeral homes going in small towns."
The Vertin family orchestrated its first funeral service in 1904 when Thomas' grandfather founded Joseph Vertin and Sons Funeral Home in Breckenridge.
The Andersons searched for almost two years to find a company that had the same funerary philosophy as their family. The brothers believe they have found a fit with Vertin.
"Vertin was the only buyer interested in taking our preferences into consideration," Anderson said.
Staff at Anderson Funeral Home will remain. Dave Anderson will continue to provide funeral pre-arrangement services as needed and Tom Anderson will co-own the business with Tom Vertin.
The agreement between Anderson and Vertin allows the Anderson family to retain ownership interest and work on a daily basis as long as they wish; it also stipulates that should the Anderson children decide to pursue a future with the funeral home, that they are welcome to re-purchase the interest acquired by Vertin.
Change is not foreign to the Andersons. The funeral home has moved three times since their Swedish ancestors settled in Douglas County. In 1928, the funeral home moved from Broadway to the corner of 4th Street and 7th Avenue West where the Cedar Rose Inn is currently located. Another move brought the business across Broadway to 7th Avenue East and Jefferson Street in 1933. Finally, Anderson Funeral Home rested in 2006 on Voyager Drive.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, 86 percent of funeral homes in the United States are family owned. The remaining 14 percent of funeral homes in the nation are owned by publicly traded corporations.
Vertin's website maintains that, "We are not a public company, nor do we want to be." The business is one of the largest privately-held, family-owned funeral homes in the Midwest.
Recent legal notices published in the Echo Press have resonated rumors through the community that another funeral home may be coming to the area or that the Petermeier family may be returning to funeral service. This hearsay can be put to rest as fallacy.
"It's all a housekeeping practice attached to the Anderson-Vertin partnership," Anderson explained.
Interestingly, if a person recalls that the Petermeier family handled a burial, they can look up that phone number in the phone book and it will ring through to Anderson's.
"It's important in the funeral industry that a family can rely on their local funeral home," Anderson said. "I've been surprised at how supportive people have been about the partnership with Vertin. They're pleased that the Andersons are still around."