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75 years

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Local business to celebrate milestone by giving back to the community

HARTINGTON — A local business will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this month.

In March of 1947, Richard Wintz and his wife, Katherine, purchased the Reifert furniture and funeral home business.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the occasion, the Wintz Funeral Home is holding a special customer appreciation event. The funeral home will give away a $75 gift certificate to several area businesses throughout the summer. The winners will be drawn every Monday as the registration moves to the next business.

The registration boxes go out this week and the drawings will begin next week, starting with Food Town. Check the ad in the Cedar County News to see where the drawing moves to each week.

There has been a funeral home in Hartington ever since the community was first incorporated in 1883. Only two families have owned the current funeral home in that timeframe.

In 1874, Fred Reifert, began a funeral business in St. Helena. In 1883, he moved his business to Hartington and operated his funeral business and a furniture store out of a downtown building. In 1892, he purchased the property at what is now 203 West Franklin Street. The larger, two-story structure has continued to be operated as a funeral home since that time. It is the oldest functioning funeral home building in Nebraska.

Fred passed away in 1921, and his son, George, along with Fred’s daughters, Clara and Lucille, continued to operate the business. Another son, Ralph, joined the family business in 1932.

It was in March of 1947 that the 30-year-old Wintz, and his wife, Katherine, purchased the business from the Reifert family. In 1958, Richard added a more modern funeral chapel to the original structure.

The house was remodeled in 1960 to add additional living quarters to the west side of the two-story home. Richard and Katherine raised nine children there. They sold their downtown furniture store in 1962 and at the same time purchased the Smith-Reichendeifer Funeral Home in Hartington and Coleridge.

Richard’s oldest son, Jim, and his wife, Carla, joined the family business in July 1975 and began living in the home just east of the funeral home.

Richard died of lung cancer Feb. 10, 1981, at the age of 63. Jim continued operating the family business along with his mother, Katherine. She continued to be actively involved with the day to day operation of the funeral home until her death Oct. 11, 2009, at the age of 89.

The family was also assisted by excellent part-time help during this time. Ellwin and Doris Jordan began assisting in 1978 and continued to help for 25 years. Bruce Bohlken, Louis Schumacher and Ed Fuchtman were all instrumental providing help with visitations and funerals.

In August of 1985 Richard’s youngest son, Jerry, joined the business. His wife Kristi began helping after their marriage in 1987. In 2000 the Wintz brothers merged their business with Ray Funeral Chapel in Yankton and in August of 2002 Jim’s oldest son, Paul, became a third generation funeral director in the family business. Jim’s third son, Steve, followed suit when he also joined the business in 2004.

Paul is married to Holly Schroeder and Steve is married to Katie Griess. Paul and Steve both live in Yankton and work at the Wintz & Ray Funeral Home in Yankton.

The office manager in Yankton is Tracy Dutrow who has been working for the Wintz family since 2007. Her husband, Bruce, assists with transfers when needed.

Jerry’s son, Jason and his wife, Karly, joined the family business in 2018. He now assists at the funeral home on an as-needed basis.

In May of 2018 the Wintz family purchased the funeral home in Laurel.

“We would not have been able to operate our family business without the help of our part-time staff. Sheila Kramer is our aftercare coordinator and her husband, Marcel, assists also. Diane Janssen has been helping at the funeral home in Yankton since 2000 and her husband, Joe, is our main cemetery mower. Ron and Jan Bertsch assist with visitations and funerals in Yankton. Don Noecker has been our pre need planner for several years. Assisting in Nebraska are Dan Kathol, Peter Talley, Dan Kollars and Chuck and Julie Meirose. Merle Loecker assisted for many years until his retirement as did Daryl and Aggie Hochstein until his death in 2018,” Jim Wintz said. “We also need to thank our families for being understanding when we had to change our family plans, miss activities or work on weekends and nights. We view what we do as a ministry instead of a job.”