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Rather than enter the family business, Dennis Schmidt had something else in mind for his future career path. “When I was younger, I wanted to go to medical school,” he says. “My dad, when he ran the funeral home, was away from home a lot. I didn't understand why at the time, but as I got older, I saw that there is more to the profession than the long hours. You make quite an impact on people.”

“My father called working in a funeral home ‘a calling,’” Schmidt adds. “I felt that calling as I got older. My father and grandfather set a great example for me.”

Schmidt’s grandfather, Russell Schmidt, started the Russell C. Schmidt & Son Funeral Home in 1953 after studying at mortuary school in Chicago. “My grandfather originally wanted to go to medical school, but he didn't have enough money,” Schmidt says. “So, he went to mortuary school instead.”

But, business was slow in the beginning. Making ends meet for his family meant some sleepless nights. “He worked third shift at GE and began delivering for the Boston Store,” Schmidt says. “When he got a call for a funeral, he served the family in addition to working the other jobs. He didn't go to sleep for a few days. He sacrificed so much for his family and to grow the funeral home. He would not fail; that was not an option.”

Schmidt’s father, David Schmidt, originally worked as an accountant. “He fought during the Vietnam War, and when he came back he felt that pull to work for his father,” Schmidt says. “Grandpa never pressured my father or me to join the funeral profession.”

Schmidt’s father worked long hours to keep the funeral home operational. “I saw firsthand and understood the impact he had on families. Working in the profession was for a greater cause,” Schmidt says. “We all believed that the profession is about making families comfortable and earning their trust.”

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