Periodically, we’ll highlight one of OGR’s Golden Rule Funeral Homes and the amazing work they’re doing in their communities. This week’s spotlight is on John L. Ziegenhein & Sons (JLZ) in St. Louis, MO. The original article was featured in 2018 Fall edition of OGR’s magazine The Independent

John L. Ziegenhein & Sons, St. Louis, MO

John L. Ziegenhein, Sr., and his four brothers opened a new funeral home in South St. Louis in 1900— Ziegenhein Brothers Undertaking. In 1931, when John wanted to bring his wife and sons into the business, he started his own funeral home, John L. Ziegenhein & Sons (JLZ), at its present location in St. Louis City, MO. In 1995 a second location was opened in St. Louis County about 12 miles south of the original. After the passing of the last member of the Ziegenhein family, ownership was transferred to longtime employees. Roger Richie took ownership in 2006.

John L. Ziegenhein & Sons Staff

While most of the families JLZ serves are of the Christian faith, a few are Buddhist and Hindu families. Today, they have 7 full-time employees and about 30 part-time employees, all working together as a family. He attributes his business success to the kind, loving service to others provided by his employees—especially Suzanne Hayes, Vice-President; Dan Heaman, Manager; Bryan Benson, Mike Skoklo and Frank Heckler, funeral directors; Steve Bayer, driver; and John Justice, custodian. Their actions are focused on service to others and not on egos. The staff does not care who gets the credit as long as the client families are well-served.

Roger Richie took the time to answer some questions from OGR about what it means to be involved in his community and the value of kindness.

Why do you believe that funeral service is important?
“At the time of a person’s death, that individual is special to many people. He has loved, been loved and touched many lives. His loved ones have emotional needs that can be met through gathering, remembering, celebrating, telling stories, honoring traditions, sharing photos— basically participating in his funeral.

“Funerals are about acceptance, closure, and helping us move on and live fully. Yes, funerals are very important!”

What does your funeral home do in order to create a strong community presence?
“We believe people like to work with nice people they know. We need to be known by our neighbors.

“People like people who are helpers/givers. Therefore, my staff and I are active in our own churches, Optimist Club, Kiwanis Club, three local Chambers of Commerce, neighborhood associations, and local police/business association. We attend and support local charity trivia nights and local barbecues; provide attendance prizes for many fundraisers; provide 6,000 calendars each year to the community; provide over 50,000 coffee cups each year to churches, charities, and civic groups, and provide containers of ground coffee each month to our local police precinct. We also provide speakers to local schools, civic and religious organizations; sponsor local sports teams; sponsor and print tickets for fundraising groups; provide a hearse, driver, casket, and urn for training classes at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery several times per year; provide hand fans at outdoor summer events. I am a member of our local bank advisory board. We want to know our neighbors and have them know us!”

What do you value most about OGR? Why did you become a member?
“We value and appreciate OGR and became a member for the many resources—publications, family surveys, etc. We appreciate the networking benefits at OGR events of shared ideas and one-on-one personal interactions. Membership brings an opportunity to interact with other family-owned and operated funeral homes who understand and have a sense of our problems and situations.

At JLZ, we truly believe in OGR’s Golden Rule. We use the Golden Rule as our guide as we provide meaningful, dignified and affordable funeral services to the families we serve in St. Louis, Missouri.”

Is there anything in particular that you do at work to keep your spirits high or the spirits of your staff high?
“I start each day with daily readings and affirmations and encourage my staff associates with those same ideas. We provide a list of 40+ Secrets of Happiness and Success on our website and to the public/staff in the JLZ share area.

About twice a year, JLZ provides full-time employees with gift cards to local restaurants. We usually have a JLZ company summer picnic and a December Christmas party for all employees and their spouses. JLZ provides employee lunches at work about once a month. We have an exercise room and equipment (treadmill, stationary bicycle, elliptical)  available at the city funeral home—24 hours. We are flexible with work hours when special circumstances develop in the employees’ personal lives. We have a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country van available for employees’ personal needs. The employees are encouraged to be an active advocate for the client families—everyone is equal, no one is better—asking ‘how would I help my own mother, sister, child?’  We treat all people, employees and client families with respect, kindness, understanding, and love.”

Our tagline keeps us on purpose: “We help you say good-bye—every heart has a story.”  All that really matters in this world is the well-being of people in our lives.

Roger Richie, John L. Ziegenhein & Sons 

What are three future goals you have in mind for your funeral home?

  • “Our future goals are to focus on our market area by listening and asking questions. We want to continually be asking What do our client families want and need? and How can we better serve them?
  • We’ll further investigate cremation options and choices to meet families’ wishes.
  • We want to maintain the interior, exterior and curb appeal of our two chapels (one is 87 years old and the other is 23 years old). We want to maintain a solid, positive first impression of our people and facilities and be the most ‘kind and loving’ funeral home in our service area.”

Is there anything else you would like to share about your funeral home?
“We have recently connected with a therapy dog association and have high expectations of bringing peace and comfort to families through this serene, calming concept.”

Final thought to share: “Do not underestimate the power of kindness. “◆

This Thanksgiving, OGR is thankful for members like John L. Ziegenhein & Sons that exemplify the golden rule.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!