Editor’s note: Each Monday, the Kenosha News takes a look at the life of a Kenosha County resident who recently died. We share with you, through the memories of family and friends, a life remembered.
As Al Braun took care of Kenosha families, he took care of his community.
For 42 years he served as a funeral director in Kenosha for Hansen Funeral Home, Bruch Funeral Home and for the past 22 years as the owner and operator of Kenosha Funeral Services.
In addition to serving individual families, Al was connected to the community, noted pastor Daniel Duncan, chief celebrant for Kenosha Funeral Services.
“He knew what was going on in his community and understood how community members needed to support each other,” he said.
He loved what he did, said his wife, Sue Braun.
“What he liked best about being a funeral director was the point at which a family said, ‘It was a beautiful service,’ and he got that handshake,” Sue said.
“He was warm, friendly and demonstrated professionalism,” Daniel said.
After a lifetime of caring for families who sustained loss, on April 18, Allen Braun 64, died from heart failure at his Pleasant Prairie home. He is survived by his wife, Susan; sons Joe, Matt (Emilia Debicka) and Luke (Za); brothers John (Rosie), Richard (Vickie) and Patrick (Diane); a sister, Mary (Larry) Fry; and four grandchildren.
Al was born Feb. 17, 1955, in Richland Center, the son of the Frank and Gertrude Braun. He attended schools in Richland Center.
Born to the business
It seemed to family that Al was born to the funeral business.
“His interest started when he attended funerals with his parents. He saw (the directors) in three-piece suits and decided that was the career for him,” Sue said.
In high school, he worked at a local cemetery digging graves and earned the nickname “Digger,” said his son Joe.
After graduation, Al came to Kenosha to work for Hansen Funeral Home and attended Milwaukee Technical College, where he studied mortuary science.
On May 14, 1977, he married Sue LaPoint, a native Kenoshan.
“We got married, and that night he had to study for his state board (examinations), which were the next day,” she said.
Marrying a man who was embarking on a career in the funeral business didn’t bother Sue.
Louis Piehl worked with Al for eight years at Bruch Funeral home.
“He was a good guy to work with, dependable,” he said. “You either love this business or you find something else to do.”
on his own
In 1997, Al started up his own funeral service, working at first out of a small storefront on Sheridan Road.
Al’s rationale for branching out on his own was to serve families in the way he knew best, Sue said.
“He got tired of (businesses) charging so much for funerals and then having to collect money from families,” Sue said. “He would say, ‘This is the worst time in (a family’s) life, and because people aren’t thinking, they can be taken advantage of.’ He didn’t want to be that guy.”
Sue joined Al in the business as office manager and bookkeeper. Their sons have since joined the business as well.
In 2002, the Brauns constructed a larger facility at 8226 Sheridan Road.
“We needed more space because we couldn’t do larger funerals in the first location,” Sue said.
At work, Al was a perfectionist, Sue said.
“He wanted to make sure every family had what it needed and what it could afford. He did not want anyone to go into debt (for their funeral services),” she said.
“He was there all the time and on weekends,” said longtime friend and employee Cheryl Turner. “He wasn’t afraid to do grunt work.”
When he did give himself time off, Al just wanted to “do nothing,” Sue said.
But this was only after he spent the first three days calling back to the office, added Cheryl.
Al’s favorite trips were beach vacations to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Florida. He also liked gambling trips to Las Vegas and Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee.
At home, Al loved mowing his lawn and puttering around the pool at the Carol Beach house. “We joked that the pool was his mistress,” Sue said.
“He was like a country boy from Richland Center again in his yard,” Joe said.
He was also a big promoter of St. Bernard rescue dogs, taking on several over the years.
No plans to retire
At 64, Al had no plans to retire as a funeral director, said his family.
“He was passionate about it; he never would have retired,” Joe said.
“He loved his family, and he loved the families he cared for,” Sue said.
Although the funeral industry can take its toll, Al was able to keep his balance, Sue said.
“He was empathetic, but could pull himself back,” she said.
Duncan said he respected Al’s approach to his vocation.
“(A death) is a difficult time for people, and they need good representation. It’s about holding hands to get through the process, and this is something Al certainly did.”