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Bringing comfort to families

November 23, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY — “We always say families first.”

It’s not only the way Geisen-Carlisle Funeral & Cremation Services, 613 Washington St., does business. It’s how they meet the needs of those that depend on them for care, attention and compassion during perhaps the most difficult seasons of their lives.

Geisen-Carlisle Funeral & Cremation Services began in Michigan City in 1926 when Harley J. and Ida (Runkle) Carlisle purchased Earl Undertaking, originally at the corner of Michigan Boulevard and Washington Street. The company moved to its current location, which was built in 1897, and Harley’s sons, James H. and Robert H. Carlisle operated the Carlisle Funeral Home. Robert’s son, Bill Carlisle and his wife, Sara, purchased the business in 1974.

Geisen Funeral Homes, based in Crown Point, acquired the funeral home in 2012 and announced their affiliation with the Carlisles. Larry Geisen is the fifth generation owner of the business which began in 1867 when founder Peter Geisen began making coffins at his local furniture store, “Geisen Furniture and Undertaking” parlor. Larry’s son, Anthony, just graduated from Worsham Mortuary & Science School and has joined the business.

“The Geisen family is unique in that this is the sixth generation, and it’s been father, son, father, son, father son,” explained Jean Lahm, who handles community relations for the company. “Larry is passionate about funeral care and truly understands how to serve families. That passion has been handed down.”

Larry and his wife, Kim, added a location in Hebron in 2004 and purchased an additional Merrillville location from Larry’s cousin in 2008. They built a new state-of-the-art funeral home, complete with a full-service reception area, in Crown Point in 2007.

That building also contains its own on-site crematory, which services the Michigan City location.

“Your loved one never leaves our care,” Lahm said. “Our standards are the highest in funeral care. That’s important to us to serve our families.”

In addition, families can utilize the Pet Loss Centre within the Crown Point location as well.

“We are a full-service provider,” Lahm said. “Pet grief is very difficult for many. It is so comforting and helps ease things a bit after their pet dies.”

Lahm said that Geisen Funeral Homes is the only funeral home in the area to receive the Pursuit of Excellence Award from the National Funeral Directors Association. This has been awarded to the company every year since 2012 and is based on the funeral home “going above and beyond in eight different categories,” such as community outreach, family support and education.

“It’s a very lengthy application and you have to get across that we are helping and serving the families in our community in unique ways,” she continued. “We are always looking for ways to make it special for them and are very accommodating in providing something different.

For example, family members are encouraged to display special items that belonged to their loved one. This might include a favorite chair, a musician’s instrument, hand-crafted items created by a woodworker or an artist’s prized pieces. Once, the funeral home even arranged for a motorcycle hearse for an avid motorcycle rider.

In another instance, when the owner of a local ice cream parlor passed away, those who came to pay their respects were treated to cups of ice cream as they left, in honor of the deceased.

For an extreme Purdue University tailgating fan who never missed a game, Geisen Funeral Homes set up a special “tailgating” area complete with a tent, tables and snacks, in a separate visitation room.

“Visitors could pay their respects to what this woman was passionate about,” Lahm said. “Celebrating someone’s life in a very personal way is what we are very good at.”

For another Italian lady with a large family who was known for her expert cooking, pieces of her kitchen including her pots and pans and dining room chairs were brought into the funeral home to create a display.

“When her family and friends came in and saw all of her kitchen items they were so touched by it and began telling stories,” Lahm said. “Sometimes you don’t think that all those items that were part of a person would mean that much, but they do.”

When Lahm herself underwent losses in her family, she chose to honor them in non-traditional ways. For her sister who was a flight attendant, visitors left the funeral home with a small wings charm as a remembrance. When Lahm’s father passed away last January, she “took a bunch of the funny signs and posters from his spot, the garage, and displayed them all over” at his services.

And, “knowing the importance of a personal sendoff,” Lahm wrote his obituary with wit and candor. It began with, “Terry Wayne Ward, age 71, of DeMotte, IN, escaped this mortal realm on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018, leaving behind 32 jars of Miracle Whip, 17 boxes of Hamburger Helper and multitudes of other random items that would prove helpful in the event of a zombie apocalypse.”

Completely taking Lahm by surprise, it ended up going viral on Facebook and was picked up the Associated Press. She was interviewed by the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Inside Edition and more.

“I wanted to send him off the best way. He was a really funny man,” she said.

Lahm said the funeral home emphasizes the “Talk of a Lifetime.”

“We urge families to communicate to find out what the individual’s wishes are. It’s the realization that you want to talk to your family members and see what brings them comfort — what is going to help them with the initial stage of grief,” she explained.

Geisen Funeral Homes is involved in its communities as well by hosting several special events in Michigan City and Crown Point (to service its other three locations). Each year a special dinner, complete with guest speakers and entertainment, is held for veterans and their spouses. The business further honors those who served by partnering with local Boy Scouts for an entry in various Fourth of July parades.

The company recognizes local clergy and their staff with an annual lunch complete with games and prizes. A Valentine Bingo Lunch was created for those who have lost a spouse in the past year.

Geisen Funeral Homes holds free Memory Bear workshops throughout the year where volunteers create stuffed bears out of deceased loved ones’ clothing items. And, Geisen-Carlisle Funeral & Cremation Services is participating in Toys for Tots this holiday season.

“Larry is very much community-minded. He understands the importance of giving that 100 percent above and beyond,” said Lahm. “We encourage our staff member to come up with ways to serve our families and community.”

For more information about Geisen-Carlisle Funeral & Cremation Services and Geisen Funeral Homes go to www.geisenfuneralhome.com or look up “Geisen Funeral Homes” on Facebook.

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