Don Klaehn will soon be retiring from Dignity Memorial Fort Wayne Funeral Providers, who currently operate as Elzey-Patterson-Rodak, Klaehn Fahl Melton, C.M. Sloan, Hockemeyer Miller, Greenlawn and Advantage Funeral Homes in Fort Wayne. When Mr. Klaehn leaves he will have worked more than 65 years in the funeral business!
Don began his career in the Klaehn Funeral Home, located at 420 W. Wayne, which was founded by his great grandfather, John Julius Klaehn in the late 1800s.
At the age of twelve, he was responsible for keeping the building clean, which often had him climbing a ladder to wash windows. His duties also included maintaining the cleanliness of the fleet of Cadillacs used in both funerals and ambulance calls. By the age of 14, Don was living in the funeral home several nights each week, going on ambulance runs at all hours of the night while continuing to keep the funeral home and fleet of Cadillacs clean. He was also a student at South Side High School during this time.
After graduation, Don attended Mortuary School then began assisting with embalming and working funeral services for people entrusted into Klaehn’s care. He continued to work ambulance calls through the mid 70s, until EMS took over all ambulance runs.
Don married Shirley and they raised 5 children together. Don is proud of his children and never expected them to follow in the family business. Don and Shirley will celebrate 49 years of marriage on April 8th.
Throughout the years, many people have entered and exited Don’s life. Don prides himself on knowing that he provided the best service he could, attending to everyone as he would his own family.
“If a job is worth doing, it needs to be done right,” Mr. Klaehn would say. Don didn’t take shortcuts and would stay as long as it took to assure things were done correctly. “That was how granddad taught us.”
Don is the last of the Klaehns to work in the funeral business that began in 1876.
Mr. Klaehn’s last day will be April 13th. Anyone wanting to offer well wishes or share some memories, you are encouraged to send them to: Klaehn Fahl Melton, 6424 Winchester Road or to Donald.Klaehn@sci-us.com.