Helke Funeral Home is proud to be a long-standing business in the Wausau community. As it heads into its 138th year of operation, Helke’s funeral directors and staff are as committed as ever to providing excellent service and progressive funeral and cremation care to area families. Their timeless tradition of honoring loved ones continues now and far into the future, and has been a cornerstone since their early beginnings.
The Helke family emigrated from Germany to Wausau in 1871. August Helke and his son, Charles, made tavern stools, store counters, school desks, church cabinets, and built fine furniture which led to the opening of Helke Furniture Company. At the time, building coffins differed little from building fine upholstered furniture and it was very common for a furniture craftsman to make them. Eventually, August and Charles’ skills in casket-making naturally evolved into the funeral business. In 1874, Helke Funeral Home opened its doors and Charles became one of the first licensed embalmers in the state.
Business was slow for the Helke’s at first, but in 1926, Charles bought a home in Wausau with the intent to use it exclusively for funerals. Embalming had gradually become more accepted after the Civil War. Before that time, people usually died in their hometown or in rural America and were buried a couple of days later. During the war, bodies were sent home by rail and it took days of travel. It became necessary to find a way to preserve the dead so that families could receive and bury their loved ones. Embalming allowed this to happen.
Business continued to grow as the years went by and Charles got his son, Carl, involved. Thirteen years later in 1943, the father/son duo decided to construct a new building to be used exclusively as a mortuary at 308 Fourth Street. Before that time, it was customary to have funerals in people’s homes. Later the founder’s grandsons, Charles and Richard, were part of the business and in 1962 a building was built on Wausau’s west side where the funeral home remains today.
Helke Funeral Home has become Marathon County’s oldest continually operated business according to the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce. Helke Funeral Home is presently located at 302 Spruce St, Wausau, and has been a member of the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce since 1956. The employees of Helke Funeral Home attend several of the Chamber events and serve on committees as needed. As a small business, Helke’s looks to the Chamber and its staff for advocacy, information, education, and the camaraderie of other small business owners. Helke Funeral Home congratulates the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce on its important 100th anniversary milestone.