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A Brief History of Funeral Service in Windom and Surrounding Area

The following accounts are derived from old Windom newspaper articles which are on microfilm at the Cottonwood County Historical Society, old obituaries on file at the Anderson-Schmidt-LaCanne Funeral Home, and from the researcher’s personal knowledge as learned over the years in conversations with some of the area’s “old timers”, many of whom are no longer with us.

As with any research, events closer in date to the study tend to have more detailed information available than those that took place a long time ago. An example would be, very few photos were used in new stories in the newspapers when we go back to the 30′s, 20′s and beyond. Even though extreme accuracy of dates is not the most important part of this accounting, to this researcher’s knowledge the dates are believed to be correct.

If any reader should know of an error or an inaccuracy in this accounting, we would very much appreciate it if you would bring it to the attention of one of the funeral home personnel for correction in any updated version.

Researched and compiled
December 2003 -February 2004
By, Philip J. Anderson

Crane Funeral Home

James Andrew Crane came to Windom in 1891. In 1903 he started a furniture and undertaking business downtown. He was very active in community efforts and was also involved in a number of other business ventures in Windom, including being a builder and contractor. He also served as Mayor of Windom after having been a Councilman for a number of years. The building in which the “undertaking” establishment was located no longer exists, but until about 1990 it stood on the North side of 9th Street 2nd Avenue (now HiWay 0/71) and 3rd Avenue. In his later years, J.A. Crane was assisted in his business by his son, Lowell Crane. James Andrew Crane died on Thursday, January 12, 1939, at the age of 75.

The Crane Undertaking business was purchased by the Aune-Schottle Funeral Home in the early 1920′s.

Aune Funeral Home

Peter Aune was born in Norway and came to the United States at the age of six. He was married in 1883. In 1901 Mr. and Mrs. Aune came to Cottonwood County and settled in Highwater Township. He was engaged in farming and the milling business. He established an undertaking business in the northern part or our County, but no one living today can remember where he worked from or if he had many funerals. He moved to Windom in 1916 and opened a furniture store and funeral business. So he was as far as can be deciphered, the second funeral home to be established in Windom, after Crane.

Mr. Aune died from suffocation in a fire at his residence in Windom in January of 1921. He was 61 years old.

Following Peter Aune’s death, his son, Leonard (Lennie) Aune, who had been associated with his father in the business, took over the operation of both the furniture store and funeral home.

Aune-Schottle Funeral Home

In 1923, Leonard Aune sold an interest in his funeral home and furniture store to Frank A. Schottle. Mr. Schottle was born in Iowa and came to Cottonwood County with his parents at the age of nine. He went through the Windom Public School system and then went on to become a funeral director.

The Aune-Schottle facility was originally located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and

9th Street in the old Ryan Building, which is no longer standing.

Leonard Aune died in January 1930, at the age of 36. His health had not been good for many years. After his death his wife continued to be active in the business for a few years. In 1935 and 1936 the Aune-Schottle firm employed a young man by the name of Arthur Hanson, who would later (1944) return to Windom and buy into the business. In 1937 a young man by the name of Gerald Stempfley became employed as a mortician. He would eventually stay on in later years and work in the furniture store.

For a number of years the funeral home was located in the back part of what is now (2004) Johnson Hardware Store. This building still exists and houses the repair department of Johnson Hardware Store on the South side of 9th Street next to the alley just East of the current United States Post Office between 4th and 5th Avenues.

In 1941, Aune-Schottle built a new funeral home at 669 13th Street, on the southeast quadrant of the corner of 13th Street and 7th Avenue. The new facility included an upstairs apartment for funeral home personnel. An “open house” was held for the Public on August 23rd and 24th, 1941.

Aune-Hanson Funeral Chapel

In May of 1944 Arthur H. Hanson Purchased Mr. Schottle’s interest in the funeral home and he and his wife, Idelle, moved back to Windom. Mr. Hanson was a native of Zumbrota, Minnesota, and had been employed at the Crawford Mortuary in Duluth, Minnesota. He had been married to a Windom lady, Idelle Johnson, in 1947.

Mr. and Mrs. Hanson lived in the apartment above the funeral home on 13th Street. Mrs. Hanson assisted her husband with visitations and answering the telephone. At this time Mr. Schottle and Mr. Stempfley continued to operate the furniture store in downtown Windom.

Frank A. Schottle retired in 1958 and he passed away on Wednesday, September 16, 1959. He is buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Windom.

Hanson Funeral Chapel

When Mrs. Aune relinquished her interest in the business Mr. Hanson dropped the Aune name and the business became known as Hanson Funeral Chapel. For a few years Mr. Hanson was assisted on a part-time basis by Reverend Clinton Fick, a local clergyman. In 1961 Arthur Hanson and Kenneth L. Witt, the other funeral director in Windom at the time, got together and started proceedings to merge their respective funeral homes into one entity. The merger took place officially on May 1, 1961.

Berry Funeral Home

Beaufort Berry was born in North Carolina and came to Windom in 1913. He married a Windom lady by the name of Myrtle Croft. As best as can be determined, he opened a funeral home in Windom about 1920. It was located on the northwest corner of 5th Avenue and 14th Street. Them building still stands (January 2004) and is an apartment complex.

Mr. Berry was in business for many years and was active in civic and church functions. In 1948 he sold his funeral home to Louis (Lou) Scanlan. Beaufort Berry died on June 25, 1968, and he is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Windom.

Berry-Scanlan Funeral Home

Louis Scanlan was born April 13, 1915 in Volga, South Dakota, and was trained in the Mortuary Sciences at the University of Minnesota. After purchasing the funeral home from Mr. Berry he completely redecorated and refurnished the building.

At one point he employed, on a part-time basis, a Windom man by the name of Vincent Thorstad. Mr. Thorstad liked the funeral service so well that he studied for, wrote, and passed the State Board Examination to receive a funeral director’s license. In 1951, Mr. Thorstad purchased the hardware store in Storden, MN, and moved there with his family. Shortly thereafter, he opened the Storden Funeral Home in his residence. Holding only a funeral director’s license, Mr. Thorstad called upon Mr. Scanlan to do the embalming and preparation for him and help him on funerals in the Storden area.

In 1955 Mr. Scanlan sold the funeral home to a Storden native, Kenneth L. Witt. Mr. Scanlan then purchased the McCauley Funeral Home in Mason City, IA where he relocated with his wife, Vera. Vera (Sundquist) Scanlan studied and received her degree in mortuary science from the Worsham School, located in Chicago, IL in 1959.

Louis Scanlan died of a heart attack in Rochester, MN in April, 1957. Louis Scanlan is buried at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery located in Minneapolis, MN. Vera Scanlan ran the funeral home in Mason City until September, 1962 at which she and her two children, Kathleen and Daniel moved to Evanston, IL. Vera Scanlan died of esophageal cancer in August, 1976 and is also buried at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery.

Storden Funeral Home

In the late 1940′s, a gentleman by the name of Vincent Thorstad, living and working in Windom, helped Mr. Lou Scanlan at the Scanlan Funeral Home in Windom as a second job. He liked the funeral service work so well that he studied for, wrote and passed the examination for his funeral director’s license in the State of Minnesota. Then in 1951 he purchased the hardware store in Storden, MN. His family moved to Storden and shortly thereafter he opened the Storden Funeral Home in his residence. At that time in Minnesota one could obtain either a funeral director’s license or a mortician’s license, or both. The funeral director’s license required studying and mastering the laws regarding arranging and conducting funerals and the required legal paperwork involved and then writing the State Board Exam. After a year of apprenticeship under a licensed funeral director one then received his license as a funeral director. To obtain a mortician’s license, one needed to go to mortuary science school for a year, work under a licensed mortician for one year, and then write and pass the State Board Exam for the mortician’s license. Because Mr. Thorstad was only licensed as a funeral director, it required a licensed mortician to do the embalming and preparation work. This was handled by Mr. Scanlan and then when Mr. Witt bought the Scanlan Funeral Home he took over those duties. When Mr. Witt and Mr. Hanson merged their businesses in 1961, they took o those duties.

In the early 1960′s Mr. Thorstad became a full time rural mail carrier out of the Storden Post Office and this required that he turn over the complete operation of the Storden Funeral Chapel to the Hanson-Witt firm. As much as was possible, Mr. Thorstad would continue to assist the Hanson-Witt firm on funerals in the Storden area when his mail carrier duties did not interfere.

The funeral home was moved out of Mr. Thorstad’s residence and into a small bungalow that the Hanson-Witt firm purchased in Storden.

After Mr. Anderson and Mr. Schmidt purchased the Hanson-Witt firm in August of 1979, they continued the Storden Funeral Home. In 1989 the people of the Storden Community banded together to build a Community and Civic Center on Main Street through donations and grants. This was achieved and a fine new building was completed.

The community and Civic Center committee approached Mr. Anderson and Mr. Schmidt about moving the funeral visitations and funerals to the new facility and receiving a fee for its use in exchange for the exclusive use of it by the Anderson-Schmidt firm. This was agreed upon and subsequently the small bungalow home that had been used as a funeral home and visitation chapel was closed and the building sold. It was later torn down by the new owner. This arrangement continues to this day (2004) and has been a wonderful working relationship between the community of Storden and the current funeral service firm in Windom….LaCanne Family Funeral Service.

Vincent Thorstad died on February 28, 1999 from cancer, at the age of 76. He had retired from the US Postal Service nearly 15 years prior to his death. Vince and his wife Helen lived in Storden until the mid-60′s and then they moved to Westbrook.

Scanlan-Witt Funeral Home/Witt Funeral Home

The official date of change of ownership was October 1, 1955. Kenneth Witt and his wife, the former Bette Moore, wee both natives of Storden. Mr. Witt had served in the Army during World War II and was a Prisoner of War for 6 months. Prior to coming to Windom he worked for a large ambulance company in Detroit, Michigan, and the McDivitt-Hauge and Strobeck-Hauge funeral home in the Twin Cities.

Upon coming to Windom Mr. and Mrs. Witt lived in the apartment above the funeral home. The Witt Funeral Home continued the working relationship with Mr. Thorstad at the Storden Funeral Home. Mr. Witt was active in community and church functions and there is a city park named after him at the corner of 10th Street and 5th Avenue in recognition of his many years on the Windom Parks and Recreation Board. In 1961 Mr. Witt and Mr. Hanson, the other funeral director in Windom at the time, merged their respective funeral home business into one entity.

Hanson-Witt Funeral Chapel

The effective date of the merger was May 1, 1961. Officially the business was Hanson-Witt, Inc. but continued to be known as Hanson Witt Funeral Chapel. It was decided to use the former Hanson facility as it had been originally constructed for use as a funeral home. The merged funeral home continued to work with Mr. Thorstad at the Storden Funeral Home.

In 1968, a retired farm couple from the Storden area, Melvin and Vernitta Bernston, became employed by the funeral home and they moved into the apartment above the funeral home. They assisted with funerals, driving, visitations, telephone service and housekeeping. On Tuesday, September 23, 1969, Art Hanson died unexpectedly from a heart attack at the Windom Hospital. He was 57. His wife, Idelle, passed away 22 year later in 1991. They were both buried at the Lakeview Cemetery in Windom.

On January 1, 1970, Philip J. Anderson joined Mr. Witt as a licensed employee.

Mr. Anderson was a native of Sioux Falls, SD., and a graduate of the California College of Mortuary Science. He had been employed at the Miller Funeral Home in Sioux Falls and at the Engebretson Funeral Home in Luverne, MN, prior to coming to Windom with his wife, Mary, and family.

In 1977 Hanson-Witt Funeral Chapel purchased the Klasse Funeral Home chapel in Jeffers, MN. It was re-named the Jeffers Funeral Chapel.

Mr. Witt and Mr. Anderson worked together for a little over 7 years, when, on Monday evening, March 27, 1978, Mr. Witt died suddenly from a heart attack while bowling at the Windom Bowling Alley on league night. At the time of his death he was 55. Kenneth L. Witt is buried at the Lakeview Cemetery in Windom.

Following Mr. Witt’s death, Mr. Anderson was alone until January 1, 1979, at which time William H. Schmidt joined him in the operation of the funeral home. Mr. Schmidt was a native of Hope North Dakota, and he and his wife, Rita, and family moved to Windom from Morgan, MN, where he was employed by the Nelson Funeral Service of Redwood Falls. It was understood by Mr. Anderson and Mr. Schmidt that they would purchase the business corporation from Mrs. Witt as soon as the legalities could be worked out.

In the Fall of 1979 Philip J. Anderson and William H. Schmidt purchased the corporation, each owning equal shares of the stock.

Anderson-Schmidt, Inc.

Even though the business transaction took place in August of 1979, the name change became effective on January 1, 1980. In keeping with their philosophy of how the business should be conducted and the treatment people should receive, Anderson and Schmidt chose to use the term “Funeral Service” in much of their logos and printed matter. Shortly after purchasing the business the funeral home was completely redecorated and permanent steel siding was applied to the outside along with energy efficient windows and doors.

As had been the case with all their predecessors, their wives, Mary and Rita, were called upon to assist on occasions with visitations, telephone answering and housekeeping.

In 1998 Joel O. LaCanne became a licensed employee of the funeral home. He was a Windom native and had recently graduated from Mortuary Science College in Chicago and had been working for the Patton-Schad Funeral Homes in Sauk Centre and Melrose, MN. He acclimated very quickly to the work ethics and standards practiced by his predecessors.

In June 2000, after having been active in the funeral service profession for 42 years, and having reached the age of 62, Mr. Anderson elected to sell his on half interest in the business and officially retire on October 1, 2000.

Fifteen months later, on January 1, 2002, Mr. Schmidt decided to sell a portion of the business stock to Mr. LaCanne.

Anderson-Schmidt-LaCanne, Inc.

Mr. Schmidt and Mr. LaCanne were now the owners of the business. After co-owning together for a year, Mr. Schmidt elected to sell his shares of stock in the corporation and divest himself of ownership, but to continue to be active on a part-time basis. This took place on January 1, 2003. Mr. LaCanne was now the sole shareholder and owner of the funeral home business. He continued to use the facility at 669 13th Street, but began to formulate plans to build a new funeral home as soon as possible. In early 2003 Mr. LaCanne purchased a lot on the north edge of Windom at 6th Avenue and 22nd Street. In late fall of the same year construction began on the new funeral home with hopes of completion sometime in May of 2004. Upon completion and occupation of the new funeral home, Mr. LaCanne has chosen to rename the funeral home…….

LaCanne Family Funeral Service

From this point on a new page in the history of funeral service in the Windom area begins….

Jeffers Funeral Chapel

Sometime in the 1960′s the Klasse Funeral Home in Westbrook, MN, purchased the parsonage of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Jeffers and began to use it for a visitation parlor. Shortly thereafter they added an addition to the building which increased the room needed to accommodate a larger gathering of people. For about 10 years the building was used very little and in 1977 the Klasse firm asked the Hanson-Witt Funeral Chapel in Windom if they would be interested in buying the facility….being that Hanson-Witt was handling almost all of the funeral services in Jeffers. The two firms agreed upon a price and the Hanson-Witt Funeral Chapel in Windom became the owner of the Jeffers facility, which they called the Jeffers Funeral Chapel.

As time progressed improvements have been made to the Jeffers Funeral Chapel and it is handicapped accessible. The relationship between the people of the Jeffers community and the funeral home in Windom through the Jeffers Funeral Chapel has been one of trust, confidence and friendship and this is expected to continue with the LaCanne Family Funeral Service.

For a full version of our firm’s history, please contact us at 507/831.1526.

A Listing of those who have helped or assisted the funeral directors in the Windom, Storden and Jeffers areas in one way or another over the years. We apologize in advance if there is someone who has been unintentionally omitted.

  • Lloyd Johnson, dec.
  • Rev. Clinton Fick, dec
  • Robert Underwood, dec.
  • Vincent Thorstad, dec.
  • Lou Skillingstad, dec.
  • Melvin Bernston, dec.
  • Elsie Hawkins Sonrenson, dec.
  • Arden Erickson, dec.
  • Ray Sartorius
  • Jim Glidden
  • Jon Larson
  • Rod Gove
  • Vernitta Berntson
  • Phil Christensen
  • Karen Christensen
  • Donald C. Olson
  • Stan Severence
  • Loy Storey
  • Allen F. Rempel
  • Lila Harnack
  • Carol Christianson
  • Bruce Toninato
  • Ruth Ann Determan
  • Edward Eifert
  • Ed Hanson
  • Joe LaCanne
  • Jeff LaCanne
  • Virginia Cook
  • Bill Schmidt
  • Phillip J. Anderson
  • Ray Sartorius
  • Jim Glidden
  • John Halgeson

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