Charles Akkerman graduated from the Mortuary Science Program at the University of Minnesota in 1948. He was employed at O’ Halloran & Murphy Funeral Home in St. Paul, Willwerscheid and Peter’s Mortuary in St. Paul, and Billman Hunt Funeral Chapel in Minneapolis, before returning home to Mora in 1960. That same year, he started the Akkerman Mortuary which he owned and operated for 25 years.
Wally Rock remembered as a gentleman, role model
By Mary Kay Bodeen
This article originally appeared in the Braham Journal and is posted with permission of the author
The name J. Wallace (Wally) Rock is rooted in the history of Braham. He was a businessman, a church and civic leader and a respected citizen. Local publications prior to 1995 show the threads of his life woven into Braham history. He died 3 months before the community inducted him into the Braham Hall of Fame. Today, many visitors view his plaque at Braham Area High School and wonder: Who was Wally Rock? Recently Wally’s colleague, Waldo Randall and his wife Dixie, discussed their friend’s influence. “Wally had a remarkable memory for people’s names and the details of their lives”, Waldo said. “He always greeted people personally and was genuinely interested in each one of them. He always put others first and he did his utmost to promote the Braham community.” Years before, in his school yearbook, Wally was described by his classmates and teachers as “truly a gentleman at all times.”
Born in 1909, just 10 years after Braham was founded, Wally grew up north of town. He graduated from Braham High School in 1927, and received a degree from the University of Minnesota School Of Mortuary Science. When he returned to Braham in 1931 as a licensed mortician, he purchased a business, from N.E. Anderson, which included a funeral home and a furniture store. Located on Main Street, the building is now the home of the East Central Minnesota Arts Council.
Even now Wally’s name stands out on the funeral home building he purchased from E.E. Erickson in 1943. Through the years the “Rock” name on the sign has stayed, followed by those of later owners, Randall, Mankie, and Ingebrand. Mike Ingebrand worked for the Randalls for 5 years before buying a funeral home in Mora. He returned to Braham in 2007 to add his name behind Wally’s. He continues to provide the same professional, dependable and caring services as his predecessors. Waldo Randall moved to Braham in 1965, and assisted Wally for six years. In the early days, many people died at their homes and were then transported to the funeral home. Since the Rock Funeral Home’s phone number was also the number people called for an ambulance, Wally’s wife, Gladys (and later, Waldo’s wife, Dixie) took phone calls to direct the ambulance or hearse to the correct location. No one had a GPS or even a fire number, so landmarks and familiar neighbors’ names were used for directions. Rock and Randall did not provide emergency treatment, as EMTs or first responders do today. Instead, they transported the person to Braham Hospital, which closed in 1974.
Waldo recalls that the average expense of a funeral was less than $500 before 1965 and the cost of a funeral never went above $1,000. He remembers that Wally was also the city clerk and people would stop by the funeral home to pay their water bill. Wally would also collect 50-cent donations for funeral flowers from friends and neighbors of the deceased. When enough money was collected, he would order a memorial floral arrangement from Cambridge or Minneapolis. That practice continued until a flower shop opened in Braham.
Waldo remembers unique experiences after 1971, when he and Dixie assumed ownership of the funeral home. He recalled being flexible and providing a personal touch when the family of Jerome Dordal chose to use an old hearse drawn by a team of horses as a fitting tribute to their father. Often Waldo would pick up a body from the airport. With emotion, he recalled the four Vietnam servicemen from the Braham area who died in the line of duty. He felt honored to provide assistance and comfort to their families and friends.
J. Wallace (Wally) Rock was recognized with an award from the University of Minnesota, The Minnesota Funeral Directors Association and the Minnesota Department of Health for his 50 years of dedicated service. Waldo Randall also received this prestigious award. Together they served the Braham area for 66 years and remain positive role models for future generations. It can truly be said that Wally Rock helped lay the foundation of strong values, service and friendliness that defines Braham yet today.