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Winona, La Crosse funeral homes re-evaluate how to hold funerals

Winona, La Crosse funeral homes re-evaluate how to hold funerals

COVID-19 is affecting even the most unexpected elements of day-to-day operations.

Funeral homes, for one, are now being forced to accommodate state guidelines regarding how many people can gather in one location.

This ultimately results in funerals being restricted to a specific number of mourners, leaving many in despair because they can’t say their final goodbyes to a loved one.

“We’re trying to abide by the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines,” Douglas Penning, Fawcett-Junker Funeral Home and Crematory owner and director, said. “It’s going to be difficult, though, for some families.”

Douglas Penning mug


COVID-19 has become such a pervasive topic that even obituaries are now addressing it along with funeral dates, with one in particular on the Winona funeral home’s website saying that physically attending a funeral may not be in everyone’s best health interest, and noting that attendance by prayer is acceptable.

“(People are) very disappointed,” Penning said. “They’re trying to honor someone’s life and by having a limited number of people, it’s hard to work with.”

Funeral homes in the La Crosse area are adjusting as well, taking it day by day.

Steve Kish, co-owner of Schumacher-Kish Funeral Home in La Crosse, said Wednesday that they are doing what they can to accommodate the families in the coming months. Some families are choosing a private funeral or looking into options to videotape the funeral or provide a livestream.

“We’ve done it before where we’ve had to for a family where someone is out of the country,” said Scott Kish, another funeral director with Schumacher-Kish.

The same can be said for Hoff Funeral and Cremation Service in Winona, where new methods of delivering a final goodbye are actively being explored but have not been decided on due to how new COVID-19 is on the public’s radar.

“We’re working with every family,” said Ashley Czaplewski, Hoff Funeral and Cremation Service director. “We’re just doing our best to work with every family to find what’s going to help them while still adhering to recommendations of social distancing and the size of groups.”

Ashley Czaplewski mug


Czaplewski said that some funerals may actually be postponed until it is safe for every mourner to be present at a funeral.

“It’s different with every family and what they’re looking for,” Czaplewski said. “We’re trying to help everyone stay safe while still getting them what they need.”

Czaplewski also admitted that COVID-19 is posing challenges that will hopefully never have to be tackled again.

“We’re all in a position that we’ve never been in and hopefully never will be in again,” Czaplewski said. “We’re doing our best to work together and get through this. … It’s unprecedented.”

Jeff Fredrickson of Jandt-Fredrickson Funeral Homes in La Crosse said the funeral home is following church guidelines.

“We’re not going to panic, either. Like everything else, we take it day by day and sometimes hour by hour,” Fredrickson said.

The funeral home will continue to do what it can, he said.

“We need to continually be there for others,” Fredrickson said.


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