Meet Our Members: Wiesner & Massart
For over 100 years, the families of Wiesner and Massart have been helping families through some of their toughest times, providing full service funeral homes for Kewaunee County. For owners, Tim and Jim Kinnard, this family owned business has been a very rewarding part of their lives.
In 1904, Tim and Jim’s great grandparents, JJ and Pauline Wiesner started a funeral home and a furniture store in Casco. Tim says, “That was very typical way back then, undertakers were often carpenters and would build caskets, and the two businesses went together.”
In 1930, their grandfather, Nelson Massart, married Eleanor, JJ’s daughter, and the families formed a partnership in the businesses. During WWII, in 1943, the Casco funeral home burnt down, and the company was forced to move their operation to a smaller building across the street. With the war underway, there was a shortage of manpower and lumber to rebuild, and it took nearly five years until the building was restored.
“The lumber had to come from Washington Island, and I remember seeing some of the charred tresses from the fire being reused in the reconstruction,” says Jim.
In 1945, while construction of the Casco business was underway, Nelson bought a funeral home on Fremont St. in Algoma.
The company has had a presence in Algoma ever since, serving the community for over 70 years. Tim says, “Algoma has been very good to us, and now we have four separate locations in Algoma and Casco.”
In the 1950’s through the early 70’s, Nelson was the ambulance service for the community. “The hearse had a strobe light on it, and he was the only gig in town for ambulance calls,” says Jim.
Nelson was well known for his kind heart, often foregoing payment due to him for those struggling financially. Jim says, “He took care of everybody, farmers would often pay with chickens or eggs or bread, and some couldn’t pay at all, and he was okay with that, he was a kind, kind man.” In the 1970’s, the family acquired a new “family member” in David Hudson. “He was part of our family since the 70’s, and he took care of the Algoma funeral home, as well as helping in Casco, and he was basically a family member to us,” says Tim.
Nelson Massart ran the business from 1930 until his passing in 1991, at which point Tim and Jim took over. “We started as kids working at the business, both at the furniture stores and the funeral homes, helping out wherever we could,” says Jim. The two both went to college and earned their bachelor’s degrees before working towards receiving their licenses to become funeral directors. “We both drove back and forth to Milwaukee every day for that, but we did what we had to do,” says Tim.
Tim, who originally wanted to be a veterinarian, decided at age 30 that he wanted to come back to the family business. For Jim, it was something he always wanted to do. “Grandpa was always proud that I was helping out as a kid, and I made a promise to him when I was a teen, that I would keep the business going,” says Jim.
In 2000, the company moved from Fremont St, and built a new funeral home in Algoma’s industrial park. In 2014, they also opened their furniture store in Algoma, which Tim says, “has really taken off.” Now, Tim and Jim’s kids are helping out, just like they did when they were young. “With the kids working now, it’s the fifth generation of the family business, which is cool,” says Jim.
With four separate business locations, Jim and Tim are very busy, which Tim says “it keeps us hopping a bit, and our flooring business has become huge, we do commercial and residential flooring, from start to finish, we do everything,” says Tim. “Every day when we get to work, you know you’re not getting a break, and we’re lucky if we’re done by 5, and often we’ll have a visitation at the funeral home after that,” says Jim.
The furniture store also sells mattresses and bedding, offering Sealy products. According to Jim, the furniture store is a bit more specialized compared to what it was in the past. “When grandpa Nelson had the store, it was also like a hardware store, selling paint, window treatments, shades, glass, windows,” says Jim.
For the funeral side of the business, both Tim and Jim are licensed funeral directors, taking care of everything from removals, embalming, cosmetics, meeting the families, and directing visitations and funerals. “From the second someone dies, until the burial or cremation, we take of everything from start to finish,” says Tim.
For the brothers, the funeral business had never become just business to them. “We have been doing this for thirty years, and we never get complacent or callous with anything. I still have the same emotion, and love helping people the same way I did when I was helping as a teen,” says Jim. “At times it can be tough, but is also very rewarding.”
Tim says he is often asked about his work and why he would want to do it. “It’s not morbid, you meet so many great people, and we are helping them through one of the toughest times in the life,” says Tim. Jim says, “It’s a sad time, but it is also a time of socialization, people are visiting, it’s good for the family, good for visitors, so there are some positives,” says Jim. Tim adds, “A funeral is not for the deceased, it is for the living.”
The brothers says they love helping out the small communities in the Kewaunee County area, and that funerals here a very different compared to big cities. “In big cities, it’s typical to see fewer than twenty visitors. Here, you’ll always see hundreds of visitors, because of the small, tight-knit community. People don’t forget how important it is show their support,” says Tim.
Furniture, Flooring, & Bedding Stores: 407 Main St. Casco, WI 54205 and 1009 Jefferson, Algoma, WI 54201
Funeral Homes: 107 Wiesner Ave. Casco, WI 54205 and 1617 Flora Ave. Algoma, WI 54201
by Michael Novak, Algoma Area Chamber of Commerce