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Passing on family business to next generation
brent-mary jo erickson

DARLINGTON – On Jan. 1, Brent Erickson officially retired as the funeral home director for the Erickson Funeral Home in Argyle, Darlington and Shullsburg.

“I just think after 40 years of being on call for the most part is a long time for anybody in the same business and I didn’t want the services I was giving to my families to be affected.”

Brent also knew that the business would be in very capable hands of his son, Justin, who took over the duties as the new director. Justin will be the fourth generation to serve Lafayette County and the surrounding areas.

The Erickson Funeral Home began in 1919 with Brent’s grandfather, Elmer J. Erickson, when he bought the business from brother-in-law and partner George Thompson. In 1918, Elmer received a call from George telling him that his wife Emma (Elmer’s sister) had just passed away due to complications from the Spanish flu. George was devastated by the death of his wife and asked Elmer to assist in the business. Elmer continued to work his farm in Fayette and assist George. After working for George for a number of months that year, he asked Elmer if he would go into a partnership. Elmer agreed, sold the farm and joined George. Not long after that Elmer knew he wanted to be the sole owner and the Erickson family ownership began.

Brent began working with his father when he was 13. He grew up in Argyle with parents Doral and Doris. They operated the Erickson Funeral Home and the Erickson Furniture stores. In 1973, Doral was approached by Owen C. “Ted” Sharer and his wife Edna to purchase their funeral home in Darlington. At age 16, the family moved to Darlington. Brent graduated from high school in 1975 and proceeded onto UW-Platteville for his general credits and completed a one-year apprenticeship. He moved to Milwaukee in 1978, working at two different funeral homes and attending Mortuary school, graduating in 1980.

In a Facebook post posted in February, Brent thanked his family and all of the families they have served over the 40 years he has been a part of the business. He especially wanted to thank his wife, MaryJo for being by his side and helping when times needed it.

“The support she gave and the work she did to take care of things on the home front while I was working will be a constant reminder of the importance of having a loving and understanding wife.”

justin erickson
Justin Erickson
He thanked Audrey Bennett and her husband Clark for their help at the Shullsburg Funeral Home for 25 years and “making it possible for me to work more directly with families while taking care of matters behind the scenes”.

Brent also thanked secretary Janelle Jackson for being “an integral part in the funeral home”.

“The first word that comes to mind when I think about what Brent has taught me in the 5 years I have worked with him is respect,” Janelle commented. “He is very respected by all of the communities he serves and that is because he makes everyone feel so comfortable when he is in the room.”

She said that with any business there comes ups and downs but every new challenge Brent handled with grace.

“He always knew what to say to a family and always went above and beyond to ensure the families could get the closure they needed,” Janelle said.

She continued by saying he was always relatable, patient and most importantly approachable and if there was anything she ever needed she always felt comfortable approaching him.

“You simply can't run a successful business like he did without the respect of those around you, and he earned his due respect on a daily basis. Brent has done nothing short of make me feel like part of his family. The countless lunches, the Christmas parties, the sometimes pointless conversations at work, and laughs we have had together aren't something everyone gets to enjoy with their boss, but I did and I will forever be grateful for him welcoming me into not only the funeral home but into his family as well,” Janelle said.

vaughn dohse
Vaughn Dohse
In more of the Facebook post, Brent thanked his son Justin and shared how proud he was to pass the torch onto him and his fiancée Shannon. 

“He is a leader that will stand up to any challenge with a level head and a loving heart," Justin said about his father. "He gives selflessly and tirelessly to all who asked for his help.  Dad often told me that being a funeral director is not a job but a service to the families we serve while honoring God in the process.  He gave everything he could offer to the family’s he served in their time of need time and time again without complaint or compromise.  I have not seen a more dedicated professional than Brent.  It was an honor to learn and work beside him and a privilege to be his son."

Brent also wanted to introduce Justin’s associate Vaughn Dohse and Vaughn’s wife, Kate. Vaughn is a licensed funeral director and former Mortuary school classmate of Justin’s. Vaughn and Katie grew up in Clinton, Iowa and are currently living in the funeral home in Argyle.

During his retirement, Brent and MaryJo plan on spending more time with the family and when this pandemic has subsided, they would like to do some traveling.