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• Sears Manufacturing
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NOTE: This story is included to illustrate how the tone of a story should be well suited to the subject matter. It also reveals some things about the owners of the funeral home and their values, going beyond the fact that they had a new building at a new location. Again, it’s the people aspect of things that readers will read about.

A Sense of Continuity

New Weerts Funeral Home to Open Friday

By Randy Heuston
Times Business Editor

When builders of the new Weerts Funeral Home began erecting a separate stone tower on the northeast corner of Jersey Ridge and Kimberly roads in Davenport, all sorts of wild stories started swirling around it.

“Just what is that thing?” folks asked owners Jim and Bob Weerts, “…a billboard? a wishing well? a drive-up window?”

OK, times have changed in the mortuary business, but not THAT much. In fact, when the 12,000-square-foot Weerts building opens Friday, it will represent a real effort to convey a sense of continuity despite the passage of time. With appropriate symbolism, the separate stone tower supports and frames a clock.

“Clocks have always held a fascination for us,” Jim Weerts says. “We hope this one will serve as a landmark in the community.”

Not that the clock is the Weerts’ only effort to bridge past and present. They are bringing to the new, elegant, stained-glass-and-oak chapel the pews and the original 1930s pipe organ from their 56-year-old building at 1229 Brady St., itself a Davenport landmark.

Both that building and their newer one at 1228 Middle Road, Bettendorf, will be closed so that the business can be consolidated on the Kimberly/Jersey Ridge property. The park-like site, approximately three acres, was purchased several years ago for its easier access, high visibility and closeness to five major cemeteries.

A fireplace mantel saved from the demolition of a house on the property also will have a place in the new funeral home.

Home is the key word here, as evidenced by the firm’s earlier dropping the word mortuary from its name. Both inside and out, says Weerts, “we wanted more of a residential style than commercial.”

The Weerts brothers “reviewed the neighborhood” and settled on Anamosa stone and cedar for the outside of what resembles a large, ranch-style house. Inside, spacious visitation rooms are furnished with a “home-like décor.”

A need for more visitation space—the Weerts full-service business has been handling up to 250 funerals a year—was a major factor in the move as well as the building design. “Visitation is a big part of what goes on in this community (with regard to funerals).”

But other features address what the Weerts perceive as a developing need—the extension of services before and after the traditional three-day focus at the time of death.

“Grief is not just three days long,” says Weerts, nor is that limited time necessarily ideal for careful funeral planning. Accordingly, the new building will have an information/pre-arrangement center and an extensive lending library of “grief recovery books.”

The company also has added a full-time employee, bringing the staff total to seven, including the two brothers but not including several people who work part-time. The new job will take in “grief follow-up” to help the bereaved for an extended period after the funeral.

“This industry goes through stages,” Weerts observes. “Now people are living longer and there is a longer interval between death experiences. We see a need for greater education about the value of funerals.” Filing that need takes Weerts to schools, churches and nursing homes with talks and cassettes about dealing with death.

Marketing funeral services may be a relatively new emphasis, but Weerts says the industry has remained pretty constant over the decades, “surviving good times and bad.”

“Death doesn’t take a holiday,” he says, “and it’s not affected by recession.”

He describes the Quad-Cities market as “friendly competition,” without an over-abundance of funeral homes.

The business Weerts summarizes as “humans helping humans” is a long tradition for him and his brother, Bob, who have been associated with the firm for more than a quarter of a century.

Weerts Funeral home traces its origins back to 1906 when Oswald C. Hill started the business; he was joined by his nephew, George Fredericks, in 1921. In 1955 Edward R. Weerts and his wife, Esther, came from Peru, Ill., to purchase the firm from Fredericks. E. Robert Weerts joined the business in 1956 and James F. Weerts in 1960.

Both Ed and Esther were licensed funeral directors and embalmers, and Jim says the boys’ getting into the business was “almost second nature.”

“From the time I was a kid, I can remember Mom and Dad talking about the funeral business.”

He and his brother have stayed in the business, despite the long hours and emotional intensity of it, because there is deep satisfaction “giving people support at the most difficult time of their lives.”

The new building, too, has given them a lift. Construction has gone well, and they expect to be ready for the Friday opening. Cooper Custom Builders was the general contractor, and Charles Richardson & Associates the architects. Verbeke-Meyer were consulting engineers. Suppliers and contractors include Brenton Bank, The Anderson Companies, Suburban Landscape, Koehler Electric, Home Heating, Peterson Plumbing and Eldridge Co-Op Lumber.

With the opening, the present name Weerts, Hill & Fredericks will become simply Weerts Funeral Home.

No real break in the continuity there, and in one way the changes even serve to roll back the years. “Bob and I are real excited about all this,” Jim says, feeling “like a couple of kids” again.

The Weerts kids are planning an open house for Aug. 2 and 3, which will feature a display of works by Quad-City artists. The impressive building is easy to spot driving by on Jersey Ridge or Kimberly roads. Just look for a stone tower with a clock on it.  


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