Laine Eckersell: A Passion to Serve

It’s fitting for a man in such a service-oriented profession to be involved in the community.

Amelia Nielson-Stowell Nov 4, 2016

When Adam Berdett and Pearl Thomson Eckersell opened Eckersell Funeral Home in Rigby, Idaho, in 1928, their adjoining furniture store served as the avenue to meeting people in the community.

Today, with the furniture store closed decades ago, their grandson Laine has learned more creative ways to stay involved. As president of the 86-year-old, three-generation business, he has been active in church and civic groups including the Rigby Rotary Club, Lion’s Club, Chamber of Commerce, senior center and local schools.

It’s fitting for a man in such a service-oriented profession to be involved in the community. His is arguably more than a job: It’s a calling. “I learned a long time ago that as funeral directors, people look up to you and they expect to become involved with you to the point of almost feeling like family,” Eckersell says. “That’s my passion — to serve and help people.”

Eckersell started working in the family business as a teen, cleaning the funeral parlor, washing cars and eventually working at funerals with his dad, Bruce. The tender care his father and grandparents gave to people was inspiring. He remembers watching a widow pay his grandfather with eggs and butter from her farm to cover expenses for her husband’s funeral.

“She was down and out and that’s all she had, and my grandfather understood that and was her friend,” Eckersell says. “That’s what we try to do is befriend the whole community.”

With a Main Street storefront, Eckersell Funeral Home has become an institution in the community. Justin Tawzer, a local financial adviser with Edward Jones, remembers first visiting the funeral home as an 8-year-old cub scout. Now Tawzer sends all his clients to Eckersell to talk about funeral planning costs.

“Laine is one of my dearest friends in Rigby. He’s an all-around wonderful guy,” Tawzer says. “Whether it’s money for a school project or service at a community event, he’s always there to help.”

Eckersell was the reason Tawzer got involved with the Rigby Rotary Club, and he even helped appoint Tawzer as the organizer for the rotary’s biannual highway cleanup project.

Work in a funeral home is not for everyone. The stress of planning a funeral is often compared to planning a wedding in a matter of days. Author and former hospice nurse Barbara Karnes describes death in this way: “Dying is the hardest thing we live through.” And funeral home workers are in the middle of it. They’re one of the first to be called, they work late nights and early mornings, and are grief counselors to distraught mourners.

“We all sit in the back and cry sometimes and shed tears while we close caskets,” Eckersell says of his team of employees. “We have to help families in need who are really going through it. We help them get through the grieving process, lift their heavy hearts and help them towards that final goodbye. You see feelings change after a funeral, the heaviness of the grief gone. That’s what drives me to come to work every day and help people who need help.”

Learn more about Zions Bank’s Family Business Services.

This article was previously published in the March/April 2014 issue of Community magazine and has been edited from the original version.

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