For more than 50 years, Betty Carlson has been attending to families during some of their hardest times.
In recognition of Carlson’s 50 years in the funeral service business, she was recognized with a plaque from the Kansas Funeral Directors Association during their tri-state convention in Overland Park last week.
Three of Carlson’s children were there with her, as well as her niece, who is a funeral director embalmer in Missouri.
In addition to the plaque she received, Carlson’s children surprised her with 50 long-stem roses.
“It was neat and it was such a surprise,” she said.
Carlson got into the funeral director business in 1960 when she married her husband, Gene.
“We opened a funeral home and I started in the business then,” she said.
They built a funeral home in Solomon, Kan., where they were for 17 years before buying Dietz Colonial Chapel in El Dorado.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful place to start, a small town of 1100-1200 people,” Carlson said. “We made a reputation that hopefully has followed us and I think it did all through the years down here.”
They made the decision to move because they wanted to expand their career.
“At one time, Gene thought that if we were ever going to make a move to a bigger funeral home it would have to be pretty soon because we were reaching the age if we didn’t it do it soon it wouldn’t get done,” she said. “We were turning 40.”
Gene saw the ad for a funeral home in El Dorado, and he came down to look at it.
“When he got home he told me, ‘Betty, that’s the place we want to be,’” she said. “The Dietzes were so kind to us and worked with us. We had purchased the funeral home from them in January of 1973.”
They moved to El Dorado that summer after their daughter, Linda, was out of school.
“We lived above the funeral home for three years, but we had lived at a funeral home ever since we were married,” he said.
When they moved they sold their funeral home in Solomon to their son because that is what he wanted to do. He ran it until he retired a few months ago.
“I told him he couldn’t retire because I was still working,” Carlson said.
Her other son also has gone into the funeral business.
Page 2 of 2 - “It was wonderful,” she said of her sons following in their footsteps, “and it was wonderful for Gene because they both did it before he passed away.”
She couldn’t even find the words to describe the pride they felt.
“I told my oldest son yesterday, you guys all should have gotten the 50-year award because if it hadn’t been for you all there by my side I wouldn’t have made it, especially after Gene died,” Carlson said.
Gene died in 1993.
“I decided I would stay on,” she said of after her husband’s death.
She continued as a funeral director and bookkeeper. Recently she has gotten away from the bookkeeping with the switch to computers to track all of their bookkeeping.
She said she has seen many changes in the past 50 years.
Many changes have taken place both inside and outside the building. Most notable were the erection of the four large pillars and porches on the front of the building in 1931 and the chapel in 1956.
According to the funeral home Web site: “Many changes have occurred in the funeral service since the organization of this funeral home. In an issue of the El Dorado City Directory, during the 1880s the funeral home advertised that they ‘used lowering devices.’
“These replaced lowering the casket into the grave by the use of ropes. Also, motorized equipment replaced the horse drawn hearse. Later changes which have affected the funeral business are the government agencies which are becoming more and more involved, the F.T.C, O.S.H.A. and the Environmental Protection Agency.”
“We’re a part of carriage services and they’ve been very, very good to us,” she said. “They own us but we run it the way we’ve always run it.”
Carlson has enjoyed her time as a funeral director.
“It’s been a very interesting life,” she said. “The people I meet and serve, that’s the thing that has kept me going in this business. They’ve all been my friends and whether we met for the first time or numerous times, they’ve all been my friends and I hope have remained my friends.”
In addition to the presentation at the convention last week, Carlson’s family gathered this past weekend.
“I’m so proud of all m grandchildren and children,” she said. “I just feel so blessed to have my children with me and to see what wonderful people they’ve turned into. When you work every day, the long hours like we did, you always have to neglect something and I felt like I had maybe neglected my children, but I feel like after yesterday (Sunday) that I didn’t neglect them too much.”