|Losey & Dean Ad for white bronze monuments, 1888.|
Source: Brainerd Dispatch, 22 June 1888, p. 4, c’s. 1 & 2
Brainerd's first undertaking firm was that of Mr. Albert E. Losey. He came to Brainerd in 1882. He worked for a short time at the Northern Pacific Shops and then opened an undertaking parlor on South Seventh Street. In partnership with James Harris, he bought out the undertaking business of A. E. Veon in July 1884. Mr. Harris retired a few months later and Isaac T. Dean joined Mr. Losey in early September 1884. The advertisement for the business included the following: ‘Undertaking, Pictures and Picture Framing.’ The ground for the new location of Losey and Dean Co., at 720 Front Street was purchased in 1888. From this modest beginning, the firm had grown to be the ‘largest in their exclusive lines the City of Brainerd’. Mr. Losey continued in this business until his death in 1910.
After serving in the Civil War, Isaac T. Dean acquired the necessary training to set himself up as an undertaker, and came to Brainerd in the town's infancy to establish parlors here. Mr. Dean along with his wife Lyda, established their home at 321 North 5th Street. Both were regular attendants of the First Congregational Church. Although they had no children of their own, they took a deep interest in the children of their friends, among them, young Dan Whitney. Mrs. Dean died in July of 1914 and Mr. Dean in September of the same year. Both are buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
The next undertaker in Brainerd in addition to Losey and Dean was Daniel M. Clark. He was born in Albany, New York, 1852. The family moved to Bird Island, Minnesota in 1877. In 1883, they came to Brainerd when the city was young. Mr. Clark opened his business in small quarters located in the Sleeper Block next door to the Grandelmeyer Hat Shop on Front Street near 6th, later moving to the east side of 6th Street between Front and Laurel, and then to the Columbian Block, across the street, where he had a ‘splendidly equipped hardware, furniture, and undertaking establishment’. His business advertised furniture, carpets, crockery, general hardware and stoves, besides doing undertaking, general plumbing and heating, tin and sheet metal work. Here the firm was burned out in a fire which destroyed the entire Columbian Block and had to temporarily occupy quarters in the Gardner Block on Laurel Street. In 1900, Mr. T. W. Gibson became a member of the Clark firm and the new building [Iron Exchange] was erected on the site of the burned Columbian Block and the firm had secured the stores located identically as the old store was.
Mr. Clark was in business here for 40 years, until 1923 when he retired. He was a member of the St. Francis Catholic Church, A. O. H., (Ancient Order of Hibernians), Knights of Columbus, Lodge of the Elks #615, and other organizations. He died on November 1933.
In 1889, E. W. Lynch and A. G. Gallup formed an undertaking business. Lynch retired in 1892, and in 1893 Lynch sold out to Losey & Dean, leaving only them and Clark as the town's only undertaking firms.
In 1910, B. C. McNamara was added to the list of undertakers. His business, McNamara & Co., included furniture, rugs, picture framing and undertaking and occupied the premises at 222 Laurel Street. He was employed in the undertaking business for 6 years as a licensed embalmer in the Twin Cities prior to coming to Brainerd in 1908 and spent 2 years in Brainerd before going into business for himself.
After the death of Mr. Dean in 1914, Daniel E. Whitney of Sauk Centre, an employee of Losey and Dean, took over operation of the firm. Mr. Whitney had always been active in the Masonry, Past Master of the Chapter, Post Commander of the Commanding Commandry. He had served as County Coroner for 16 years. Mr. Whitney remained at the same location but remodeled in 1929 and again in 1936. His home was at 519 North Bluff, which he built in 1923.
During this era it was customary for the funeral director to bring the casket to the home, help in casketing the body, and provide a hearse to transport the remains from the home to the grave. He also provided extra carriages as needed by the mourners. Services were held in the home, with committal services at the grave. Embalming first began to be used during the Civil War and began in the Brainerd area in the early 1900s. At that time, the funeral director would usually do the embalming in the home.
In 1916-18 George Berggreen at 614 Maple Street was listed as an undertaker. His first place of business was at 714-16 Laurel Street.
During the period 1920-27, only Whitney and McNamara are listed as undertakers in Brainerd.
In 1924, after D. M. Clark retired, B. C. McNamara took over the undertaking business and renamed it the McNamara Funeral Home. During this time embalming was used regularly and the body began to be removed from the home, taken to the funeral home for the embalming, and many times it was returned to the home for the visitation.
Between 1931-34, the undertakers in Brainerd were McNamara, Whitney, and Hector Hoenig, who was located at 218 South 7th Street. Hector Hoenig later purchased the McNamara Funeral Home and thus the name became the Hoenig Funeral Home. By 1940, the custom of viewing bodies and holding services in a private home had almost completely transferred to the funeral home and the funeral home now was being used for all the aspects of the funeral service.
In 1935 Gerry Halvorson opened his funeral home and in about 1957 D. W. Johnson joined Halvorson, forming the Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home.
In 1954, John Nelson purchased the Whitney Funeral Home at 720 Front Street and in 1956, Thomas Doran purchased the Hoenig Funeral Home at 502 Front Street. In 1960, the Nelson Funeral Chapel and the Doran Funeral Chapel merged to create the Nelson-Doran Funeral Home and built their facility at its current location on the east side of Brainerd.
Since 1960, Nelson-Doran and Halvorson-Johnson have been the only two funeral homes in operation in the City of Brainerd.
[Adapted from History of Nelson-Doran Funeral Home on file in the Research Library.]
Last Updated: January 1, 2018