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From left, Benjamin J. Eldridge, president of the IFDA, awards Joseph Reiff a commemorative pin to honor his 40 years as a certified funeral home director.

Joseph Reiff was one of six funeral directors from around Iowa to be honored by Iowa Funeral Directors Association (IFDA) in recognition of 40 years of licensed practice at the association’s annual convention May 18-20. Reiff serves the area through Reiff Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Cascade, Epworth, Farley, Peosta and Dyersville. According to Reiff, the funeral home is a family business first begun by his father in Farley.

“I worked with my father who was a funeral director all his life. I worked with him up to eight years after I came out of school. Then he passed away and I took over the business. My father originally started in Farley, then expanded to Epworth, and then to Dyersville. Then we came down to Cascade. He passed away several years ago and I expanded to Peosta.”

Reiff has seen several changes in the funeral director practice over his many years, with one of the major ones being the length of wakes and type of burials.

“The wakes are much shorter,” he said. “When I started there were two-day wakes. Now we’re down to one-day and next-day services. It has changed throughout the years and some of the things that used to be common, like an earth burial, have changed to cremation burials. That’s changed and evolved over the years, not as much in some areas, but it has expanded here. They still have regular services and everything, but instead of being buried, they’re cremated. It’s a significant change.”

Another significant change has been an increase in tissue and organ donation, but Reiff said this hasn’t made his job any harder, just different.

“It’s a little more work but not really a problem. It’s just something we had to learn how to handle and move on. It hasn’t affected us either way. It’s mainly about taking care of the families and respecting their wishes.”

The families of the deceased have always been Reiff’s top priority as a funeral director and the one thing he considers most important in both the business and his personal calling.

“Taking care of the families, giving them a chance to say their goodbyes, and helping them work through their grief, it’s very important to me and I take it personally to take care of the families. It’s not so much a job for me as a calling. I love helping families. My younger generation coming into the business doesn’t see that and I guess they try to work with me on the more family-oriented business side of it. I don’t look at the business side as much as what the family needs, but you have to balance both of them to make it work. I take a lot of satisfaction knowing the families are taken care of and treated right.”

Reiff said his relationship with the IFDA is a regular one, as their job is to represent over 700 Iowa licensed funeral directors and 425 funeral home establishments throughout the state and promote excellence in funeral services.

“We meet regularly for continuing education to keep us up to date with the new laws and changes that are going on,” he said. “They look out for us and if we have to input into the legalization to change some of the laws, they do that for us. We have meetings so they can learn what we think is best, not that the legislators always listen.”

The IFDA grants pins to members acknowledging milestones of forty, fifty, and sixty years in the business.

Regarding his own business, Reiff said he has no plans to retire but is planning on having his children gradually take over more responsibility in the business.

“My son is going to school now and my daughter is a funeral director. To be honest, I’m not planning to retire. I’ll take a little lighter load and let the kids keep running it for me, but I’m going to be here as long as my health keeps me going. This is what I’ve done for 40-some years and I don’t have any hobbies. This is my enjoyment, but my son and daughter will eventually fill in my steps and keep me going.”