By Jennie Zeitler
One of the most rewarding aspects of March Woman of the Month Linda Holm’s profession as a funeral director is meeting so many different people.
“I love being able to help them at a time when they have no idea where to turn or what to do next,” said Holm, of Patton-Schad Funeral Home’s Melrose location.
While hers is not a career Holm considered while growing up, there were circumstances that led her slowly in this direction.
She grew up in Albany and recalls losing a classmate almost every year through junior high and high school; she made a lot of visits to funeral homes during that time.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State University and then realized she did not like her chosen field of study. So she enrolled in the mortuary science program at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.
“Curiosity got the best of me,” Holm said. “I didn’t want to be 50 and saying to myself, ‘I should have. …”
Although it was a four-year program, many of her previously-earned credits transferred.
“A majority of the class was women,” Holm said. “It didn’t used to be that way.”
Holm and her husband, Brad, settled in Albany and had two sons, Brandon and Kyle. After gaining experience at two other funeral homes, Holm started at Patton-Schad in 2000.
“It’s gratifying to be able to do something for a family that no one else can do,” said Holm. “We put them at ease, trying to make the process as comfortable and worry-free as possible.”
Holm finds that the vast majority of people have insurance that covers the cost of their funeral.
“We offer seminars to educate people about the costs of the funeral and steps to take in planning their funerals,” she said.
Over the years, Holm has found that families say goodbye in very unique ways.
“Every family is a little different,” she said. “Families bring in so many items that personalize the visitation and funeral, such as woodworking and quilting. Funerals are for the living.”
Holm recalls when a final toast was offered at the gravesite by friends and family. Doves have been released. She finds military funerals very touching.
“Not many have bagpipes, which are very striking,” she said. “Families put certain mementos in the casket — comforting thoughts for them.”
People have been buried in wedding dresses and military uniforms.
“We try not to do cookie-cutter funerals,” Holm said. “We can make it very special.”
Some funerals have included flyovers by helicopters such as Life Link.
With a work schedule that includes middle-of-the-night phone calls, Holm and her husband try to keep life as stress-free at home as possible. She has not added many outside activities to a busy work schedule and home time.
But her position at Patton-Schad has allowed her to take part in mock car crashes presented to local high school classes.
Usually near prom time in the spring, a mock car crash depicts a fatal car accident involving teenagers. Once law enforcement agencies have arrived on the scene, a hearse is called to get the “deceased” student.
“I’ve helped with that twice,” she said. “People tell us that by the looks on the faces of the kids standing there, you can tell that they get it. They know it’s fake but the point is driven home.”
Patton-Schad offers tours to individuals, families and groups. The Melrose junior class visits during a unit on death and dying each year, as well as sixth grade students from Holy Family.
Holm also speaks at Melrose High School career day. After five years, the most recent talk had the biggest crowd.
“I like having one-on-one interaction with people,” said Holm. “We develop friendships.”
Holm is pleased to be doing gratifying work.
“Getting a handshake or a hug shows people’s appreciation,” Holm said. “Then I know I’ve done my job.”