A company founded in 1880 has to change to thrive in the funeral industry. Wilbert Funeral Services started out as L.G. Haase Manufacturing Company, making concrete products and the very first concrete burial vaults in the United States.
Now that the national cremation rate in the United States has exceeded 50%, when your business is burials, change is required to stay successful.
In this video interview recorded at the National Funeral Directors Association convention and expo, Dennis Welzenbach, President & CEO of Wilbert Funeral Services, provides an overview of the company’s many different products and services. He spoke with Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®.
A short history of Wilbert
After the company’s early successes with concrete burial vaults, Mr. Wilbert Haase started a network of licensees who provided waterproof burial vaults throughout the U.S. and Canada. In the 1920s and 1930s, business boomed.
By 1938, the company had become the world’s largest manufacturer of asphalt and concrete burial vaults with 76 licensees in 22 states and Ontario, Canada. Metal and plastic vaults were added to the product line in the 1940s and 1960s. In 1997, the company was reorganized as Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. (WFSI). The Wilbert network of Licensees today numbers 192 and covers the United States and Canada – the largest network of burial vault manufacturers in North America.
As the funeral industry has changed, so has Wilbert. With the dramatic rise in cremation rates, the company has diversified. The company provides embalming fluids, supplies and equipment to funeral homes; manufactures caskets and cremation urns and vaults; installs columbaria and ossuaries at cemeteries and churches; and runs three nonprofit mortuary colleges.
Some of the famous people who have been buried in Wilbert Vaults include:
- Louis Armstrong, American jazzman
- Pearl S. Buck, Nobel laureate author
- Harry Caray, Chicago Cubs broadcaster
- Richard J. Daley, Mayor of Chicago
- Jimmy Dorsey, American band leader
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Mamie Eisenhower
- President Herbert Hoover
- Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey
- Conrad Hilton, businessman
- President Lyndon B. Johnson
- Joseph P. Kennedy, patriarch of the Kennedy family
- Rose Kennedy, mother of President John Kennedy
- President John F. Kennedy
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
- Senator Robert F. Kennedy
- Peter II , exiled king of Yugoslavia
- Gregor Piatigorsky, famed cellist and teacher
- Ezio Pinza, operatic singer
- Elvis Presley, the “King of Rock ‘n Roll”
- Gilda Radner, comedienne
- Betsy Ross, creator of the first American flag
- Rosalind Russell, actress
- Frank Sinatra, popular vocalist
- Adlai E.Stevenson, U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
- Miles Standish, early colonial military leader
- John Wayne, actor
- Harold Washington, Mayor of Chicago
- Thornton Wilder, American playwright
Learn more at www.Wilbert.com.