Sept. 25, 2006

Third generation at Swanson-Peterson Funeral Home

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Three generations of funeral directors keep Swanson-Peterson Funeral Home personal in Cokato and Howard Lake.

George Peterson was the first to enter the business of mortuary science.

After some convincing, his son, Mark, joined him. Now, Mark’s son, Greg, is following in their footsteps.

In the fall of 1937, George had been looking for work. Carl Swanson of Swanson Funeral Home, asked if George would want to come to work for him.

Swanson gave him an outline of job duties and asked George if he was interested, when could he start.

“How about tomorrow morning?” George replied.

George had another job where he had been working outside, and since it was getting cold, he was eager to get inside, George explained.

Also, George had been interested in being a doctor but unfortunately it was economically unfeasible for him.

During his time as a funeral director, George enjoyed the variety of work. “There were new challenges everyday,” he said.

In 1957, Carl Swanson sold a partnership to George and in 1973, George bought Carl out.

Since Carl Swanson’s dad, CA Swanson, founded the furniture and funeral parlor in 1902, George decided Swanson should remain in the name.

In 1933, the funeral home was moved to 655 Broadway where Carl had been living.

During that time, the trend was moving toward conducting services in the home.

Visitations usually had taken place within the person’s home, where it was most comfortable, according to George.

So, to compete with the Cokato Funeral Home, Swanson Peterson moved to the current address for a more homey atmosphere. Then, in 1970, Swanson-Peterson bought the Cokato Coop Funeral Home and integrated it into Swanson-Peterson.

George and his wife Violet have lived in the home for 58 years along with their two children Mark and Elizabeth.

Mark didn’t want any part in his father’s business. He enjoyed working outdoors with heavy equipment, not inside funeral directing, Mark explained.

Then, when his son Greg was born, Mark thought it would be best to get off the road and get his bachelor’s degree in mortuary science.

Mark and his wife Marilyn, spent one year in Cypress, Calif. so he could get his degree in 12 months instead of two years like the programs in Minnesota, he said.

Mark graduated in 1986 and came to work for his father. Two years later, they purchased the funeral home in Howard Lake and the current business from George.

“I was wearing out,” George said.

The three agree that what they enjoy most about the business is helping others when they are in most need of it.

Mark’s son Greg, just received his degree in mortuary science after passing the National Funeral Service examination Aug. 11.

After graduating from Dassel-Cokato High School in 2000, Greg went to Hamline University and received a degree in biology and exercise and sports science.

“I never intended on going into the business right away,” Greg said.

So he moved to Kansas where he worked in physical therapy after graduation.

Greg’s dad had mentioned he would like Greg to come back and join him in the family business and went back to school.

He took the accelerated program at the University of Minnesota, completing the program in 12 months with two years worth of curriculum, Greg explained.

He is currently interning with his father in order to receive his license.

“I wanted to get back to this type of community,” Greg said.

He enjoys working and living in a close-knit atmosphere such as the Howard Lake and Cokato area, Greg explained.

Greg knows he has big shoes to fill, he said, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

“They’ve done a wonderful job serving the community, if I can do half as good of a job, I’ll be happy,” Greg said.

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