Raymond and Mary (Doyle) Marnocha decided to take a chance and start their own business, a funeral home in Pulaski. Ray had worked for another firm for a time, while Mary was a teacher. Like many people, the couple wanted to start and provide for a family. His first funeral home was an older building, located near the site of Pulaski’s American Legion Hall. In the late 1930’s, the couple moved to a different location, adjacent to what is our current facility. As the business grew and became the community’s only funeral home, there was a need for a new “modern” building. That new facility, our current funeral home, was completed in 1947.
Ray Marnocha died in 1952, at the age of 44. His widow, Mary, was granted a funeral director’s license by the state at the time of his death. However, she was not a licensed embalmer. Bill Blaney and Gordon Malcore came from their firms in Green Bay and helped her with that part of the work until Ray and Mary’s oldest son, J. Michael Marnocha, completed his studies at the Wisconsin Institute of Mortuary Science in Milwaukee, and received his license. There were good people in the community who came forward and helped Mary with the funeral work that did not require a license. That list includes (and is not limited to) John Wendzikowski, Mort Reyment, Bernard “Chopper” Reyment, Phil Doyle, Jack Olszewski, and Alvin Bodart.
1975 – 1994
Mike’s daughter, Pamela (Marnocha) Janssen was granted an apprentice funeral director license and joined the firm. She completed her college studies in Funeral Service, passed her state board exams, and was licensed to practice as a funeral director/embalmer on January 4, 1978. Father and daughter worked together as a team until his retirement. On October 4, 1994, Pam purchased the funeral home from her dad and served as its President for 17 years.
At one time or another, each of the Marnocha family’s funeral directors served as officers in their local and regional funeral directors associations. Mike also served on the Board of Directors and as Secretary/Treasurer of National Selected Morticians (now, Selected Independent Funeral Homes), and Pam was appointed by then Governor Tommy Thompson to the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Examining Board, a component of the Wisconsin Dept. of Regulation and Licensing, serving in the capacity of Vice-Chair and, also, as the Board’s Impaired Professionals Liaison.
On April 1, 2021, Pam made the decision to retire. After three generations of service by the Marnocha family, the funeral home was sold and given over to the care of another family. Jeffrey Ruediger, born and raised in Ashwaubenon, spent the early years of his career in Green Bay and then in his wife’s hometown of Sparta. Jeff and Nikki, and their two sons, Brooks and Miles, acquired ownership and have become a wonderful, caring, and skilled addition to the long tradition of “Families Serving Families” in Pulaski and the surrounding communities.
Jeffery, Nikki, Brooks and Miles Ruediger
As with anything else in life, there have been many changes in funeral service over the past 90 years. The facility has had remodelings and updates, both inside and outdoors. With advances in computer technology, personalization is much more easily created and incorporated. With the explosion of cell phones and the use of texting and social media, it has become much easier to instantly communicate with friends and family across the globe. There is an ever-evolving variety of choice in personalized keepsakes, including prayer cards and obituary cards, jewelry, candles, slideshows, blankets, and cremation urns and jewelry for the families we serve.
Many other changes have taken place. The automobiles we’ve used have ranged from what was then a top-of-the-line Packard hearse to Cadillac hearses. There have also been plenty of station wagons and vans over the years. Gatherings for visitations, funerals and life celebrations have gone from three-day events to two days, and sometimes only one. Sites for these gatherings have included family homes, churches, the funeral home, town and veterans facilities, and other venues that work best for a family. We listen to you, and we help you create the services that fit your needs. Form does follow function. We know that the function of the funeral is to take the deceased where they need to go, and to help to take the living to a place where they can begin their healing. We appreciate that this looks different for each of you. Through all of these changes, the care extended to each family has been every bit as genuine and skilled as it was way back in 1933.
People often ask directors what they consider to be the hardest part of their jobs. In response to this, Pam has said: “The connection to the people in this community is woven deeply into who I am. It is an awesome responsibility and privilege to walk with people in their time of need, but it is very painful to witness the depths of people’s sorrow. At the same time, I know that we funeral directors have the skills and resources, and heart, to help a grieving family ‘do something’ so that they don’t get stuck in that time of devastating loss.” Ray, Mary, Mike, and Jeff would all agree.
The funeral director serves an important role in a community. It is not enough to put on a suit, look nice and be a kind person. Our work is to care for people, in a skilled, respectful, and professional manner. The role of a funeral director can be compared to that of a person giving CPR for a broken heart. Metaphorically speaking, when a person experiences the loss of a loved one, it is as if they can’t catch their breath. Funeral directors, neighbors, extended family, co-workers, members of the person’s church family, friends … basically, the entire community… are invited to participate in the process that helps the family breathe again. We share our stories, we weep and tenderly touch our pain, we tiptoe into the newness of being changed, and find comfort in recognizing that we are loved and that it mattered that our loved ones were here.
Since 1933, there have been more than 7,000 times that someone dialed ‘100’ or Valley2-3221, or 2-3221, 414 822-3221, or 920 822-3221, and asked for help. We would like to believe that the first family who called, the 1000th, and the last were all cared for with our best efforts.