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Atkins-Northland Funeral Home turns over new page

Atkins-Northland Funeral Home and Cremation Service has a brand, new name - but the faces remain the same. On January 1, funeral directors Bob and Karen Atkins took over as owners of the Carlton County-based business, marking the end of an era as...

Atkins-Northland Funeral Home and Cremation Service has a brand, new name - but the faces remain the same.

On January 1, funeral directors Bob and Karen Atkins took over as owners of the Carlton County-based business, marking the end of an era as a cooperative and the beginning of what the Atkinses term "business as usual."

"There will be absolutely no change," said Karen, "with the same people doing the same things and serving the people to the best of our ability. We know the communities we serve very well, and there is literally nothing new aside from the name change."

Share equity in the cooperative will be distributed to past patrons, and people who previously made prearrangements for funerals will receive official notification of the change of ownership, but nothing will change regarding their plans or investments.

"We've had a very good working relationship with the board of directors," said Bob, "and we're very appreciative because they let us make many of the major decisions and basically run it as our own in the past."

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Bob and Karen, who have been with Northland since 1993, are the seventh and eighth funeral directors, respectively, that the cooperative has hired since it was first established on April 24, 1936.

They first joined Northland in March 1993, at the time the funeral home was located on Cloquet Avenue and 13th Street. Two years later, a new, larger building was constructed at 801 14th St., and with the Atkinses at the helm, the business itself expanded greatly as well.

"When we first came to town," said Bob, "Northland historically did some 60 funerals a year, but after we built and moved into our current building in April 1995, the first year we did 92 funerals in the first nine months. The next year, it grew to 97, and by the third we did 150."

One of the greatest assets of the current funeral home facility, according to the Atkinses, is the Fireside Room, which provides a gracious, warm dining and gathering area for family and friends following a funeral.

"It makes a big difference for families because they can keep everything in one place," said Bob. "They don't have to seek out or drive somewhere else."

In addition to their role as funeral directors, the Atkinses also put out a newsletter, as well as host an annual Christmas program, Mother's Day tea, turkey bingo and Valentine's Day event.

"We do it because that's what we feel service to our families should be," Bob stated. "Our connection with them is so important."

"The Atkinses have been an asset to our business second to none," affirmed Cooperative Board President Dave Gilberg. "We've always been all about service to the people, which is just what they have given us."

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