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A second run at a first career

Kulow comes out of retirement, buys local funeral home

December 9, 2012
By JESSE HELLING, , Messenger News

For approximately three decades, Tim Kulow served southwestern Minnesota as owners of several funeral homes.

Five years ago, Kulow decided to leave the business, selling their facilities to a longtime employee.

But retirement did not suit him.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Joy and Tim Kulow, new owners of the Fort Dodge Area Funeral Home and Cremation Service, Bruce Funeral Home, pose with a cremation urn in the showroom. The Kulows are Iowa natives who wanted to return to their home state after living in Minnesota.

"I got into the business because I felt the need to help people," said Kulow, who went into funeral directing upon graduation from the University of Minnesota in 1981.

And so, the opportunity to purchase a longstanding Fort Dodge funeral home was too good to pass up, he said.

On Dec. 1, the former Bruce-Graham Funeral Home became the Fort Dodge Area Funeral & Cremation Service, Bruce Funeral Home.

Fact Box

About the funeral home

The structure now known as the Fort Dodge Area Funeral & Cremation Service, Bruce Funeral Home has been a fixture of downtown Fort Dodge since 1890. That year, Stillman T. Meservey, one of the founders of the local gypsum industry, constructed the house, where he lived with his wife Anna. During Meservey's residence, which lasted until 1908, the house hosted many notable guests, including President Theodore Roosevelt.

The house has served as a funeral home, under various owners, continuously since 1936. Byron Wilder and Mack Bruce were the first owners of the funeral business; Bruce purchased Wilder's share of the business in 1945. Though Bruce sold the funeral home in 1972, his name persists at the facility, which was most recently known as Bruce-Graham Funeral Home until its purchase by Tim and Joy Kulow, who took possession Dec. 1.

Tim Kulow will operate the funeral home with his wife, Joy Kulow, who recently retired from a teaching career.

In addition to getting back into the business, purchasing the funeral home also allowed the Kulows to return to their home state. Tim Kulow is from Graettinger; Joy Kulow is from Moville, where her mother still lives.

"We had been looking to come back to Iowa," he said. "We felt like this would be a wonderful fit."

At present, and for the foreseeable future, the Kulows are the funeral home's only employees. They live in an apartment on the top floor of the 122-year-old structure.

"I'm a very hands-on type of funeral director," Tim Kulow said.

The Kulows directed their first funeral in Fort Dodge on Dec. 4. Tim Kulow describes his first interactions with Fort Dodge as a "warm welcome."

"We're very excited about being here," he said.

The Kulows are the latest owners of the funeral home, which has been in continuous operation since 1936.

Mack Bruce, for whom the facility is named, was sole owner of the enterprise from 1945 to 1972.

The house was originally built in 1890 for Stillman and Anna Meservey, who were among the founders of the Fort Dodge gypsum industry. The Meserveys hosted numerous notable guests, including President Theodore Roosevelt.

Joy Kulow said she is in the process of learning all of the home's history.

"We want to continue the tradition," she said.



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