Business Profile: Skradski Family Funeral Homes looks toward the future

R. R. Branstrom | Daily Press At Skradski Funeral Home in Escanaba, funeral directors Scott Streichert and Jenna Eastin look over some documents while grief comfort dog Pancake expresses interest in the camera.

EDITOR NOTE: The Daily Press will be featuring a series of articles on local businesses, highlighting their history and what makes them unique. The series will run on a regular basis in the Daily Press.

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ESCANABA – Skradski Family Funeral Homes, now with locations in both Gladstone and Escanaba, began with the founding of the funeral home at 706 Wisconsin Avenue in Gladstone by John and Marcella Skradski in 1947. John had attended mortuary college in Chicago and served his apprenticeship at Boyce Funeral Home – which would later be merged with Skradski’s. John and Marcella operated their business independently until hiring Jeffrey Waeghe in 1978. A year later, Waeghe purchased the business from the Skradskis, who current funeral director and owner Scott Streichert described as “like second parents” to Waeghe. John continued working for the funeral home until his death in 1984. Streichert said that Waeghe, still highly involved in the business, remains “an instrumental part of the success and reputation of Skradski Funeral Home.”

In 1992, Edward Walker joined as a partner and co-owner alongside Waeghe. For a time, the two also owned and operated Fassbender Funeral Home on 3rd Street in Marquette (no longer affiliated). In 1998, they purchased Boyce Funeral Home at 118 S. 12th Street in Escanaba, which had originally been built as the home of businessman John Corcoran. That second location became Skradski-Boyce Funeral Home, a name it retained until 2012 before becoming Skradski Family Funeral Home of Escanaba.

In February of 2000, Scott Streichert began his career with Skradski. In 2012, he became a business partner and owner with Waeghe and Walker. The transition from apprentice to funeral director has been undertaken by a handful of others since, and Skradski Family Funeral Homes now has a strong group of funeral directors who work hard to provide service to the community.

“The plan has always been to look towards the future with the funeral home,” said Streichert. “We’ve always had a succession plan, and we always try to keep that succession plan going. So once one owner retires, we try to set our staff up to succeed the next owner, too, if we can.”

The staff at Skradski’s consists of five fully-licensed funeral directors, four of whom work full-time. They alternate in teams and are on call 24-7-365. They also have one apprentice, a prearrangement coordinator, support staff who drive to pick up decedents out of the area, two secretaries, and a grief comfort dog named Pancake.

“When somebody faces a death in their family, we’re there to take their loved one into our care and give guidance as to what comes next,” Streichert explained.

There are many duties to complete: arranging transport, comforting the bereaved, preparing decedents, completing paperwork and filing permits.

“The word ‘undertaker’ everybody always thinks is like kind of a morbid term, but really, what it means is a person that undertakes many tasks is an undertaker,” Streichert said. “And so that’s what we do. And we do that for families, so they don’t have to during difficult times.”

Each of the funeral directors with Skradski’s came into the industry of their own accord out of genuine interest – “a calling,” Streichert called it.

“We are the only funeral home that’s independent, first-generation funeral directors. We are a family, but not by blood,” said Jenna Eastin, who was first exposed to the idea of becoming a funeral director when Skradski staff spoke to her biology class at Gladstone High School. It piqued her interest; she interned with the funeral home, went to University of Minnesota for Mortuary Science, then returned to embark on her career.

While Michigan has its own set of mortuary laws and funeral directors must be licensed with the state as well as through a national board, there isn’t a robust college program within the state. The funeral directors at Skradski attended local high schools but earned their degrees in Minnesota, California, Georgia and Ohio.

In addition to attending job fairs to recruit the next generation, staff of Skradski Family Funeral Homes speaks at a couple events regularly to help lessen the taboo around death and inform people on the funeral planning process and how to apply for things like military benefits.

“We strive to educate the community, young and old,” Eastin said.

Eastin also mentioned that people tend to think the funeral business is surrounded by sorrow.

“It’s not always sad,” she said. “You’re celebrating lives. You’re helping people commemorate a loved one. And you can be creative in that way. And it’s – it’s everlasting. They’ll remember you forever.”

Building office hours at both Escanaba and Gladstone are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Anytime after four o’clock or on the weekends is by appointment; you can still call, we’ll come down,” said Streichert. Funerals are usually held during regular business hours, but not exclusively. “They’re also conducted in the evenings, after hours, on the weekends – whenever the family chooses,” he said.


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