By Christine A. Verstraete for Strouf Funeral Home
When Robert Guddie began working 16 years ago at Strouf Funeral Home, 1001 High St. in Racine, it took him only a few days to know he’d found his life’s work.
After working with former owner and funeral director Mike Meier, it seemed just as natural for him to buy the business when his boss and mentor retired.
“I saw how the funeral director dealt with the families and I said, ‘I can do this,’” Guddie said. “The best part is serving the family and taking care of them in probably the worst time of their life.”
After getting a four year degree in business, he received a two-year mortuary degree to become a funeral director. He also is licensed to provide insurance and do burials. While the business has changed somewhat since it first opened in 1925, 49-year-old Guddie said the desire to help families in their time of grief remains the same: “I take care of them like I take care of family.”
In recent years, the funeral home has been remodeled, and both silver and black hearses are available for families to choose from. The funeral home offers full burial services and direct cremation and everything in between. Pet cremations are also available.
The funeral director and a staff of eight part-time employees and one full-time employee assist with all the funeral arrangements and offer headstones through a subsidiary company, Everlast Granite.
The main goal is to help the family celebrate the life of their loved one.
That celebration can include whatever elements the family wants. A Harley rider and classic car collector himself, he’s led funeral processions riding his motorcycle or driving a classic 1970 Camaro. Another memorable funeral included over 100 classic cars and was led by a 1954 police car.
Guddie said that personally he’s glad to have a supportive family since being a funeral director is not a 9-to-5 job. He doesn’t deny that it also can be rough emotionally at times.
But it’s in those most difficult moments, as when a family is making arrangements for a young person, a child, or in tragic circumstances, that he feels privileged to offer his support to others.
“I’m honored to serve them,” he said. “The average funeral director lasts three to five years. To many this is a job. To me, this isn’t a job, it’s a passion. I love what I do.”