East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

Archive for November, 2016

Wrapping up: A report on October’s meeting, 4 Generations of the Gunderson Funeral Home

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on November 27, 2016


Pete Gunderson, 3rd generation, presented to our club on October 15, 2016.

Pete Gunderson, 3rd generation, presented to our club on October 15, 2016.

Imagine our surprise when Pete Gunderson wheeled in three caskets to the Goodman Community Center for the East Side History Club meeting on October 15th.  He said he would be bringing some historical items for his talk on the history of the Gunderson Funeral Home and on past and current funeral practices but we didn’t expect two full size caskets (one was a beautiful new wicker biodegradable casket and the other was an older traditional Norwegian casket) as well as an historic child’s casket (with a window so people could see the face of the child and not catch whatever communicable disease the child had died from).


Child’s casket with window is visible behind Gunderson Funeral Home memorabilia.


Traditional Norwegian casket


Modern wicker biodegradable casket

Pete Gunderson is the third generation of Gundersons to be funeral directors on Madison’s East Side, joining the firm in 1982.  Pete’s son, Matt, is the fourth generation.

Pete’s grandparents, Elmer and Inez Gunderson, started the business from their home at 1932 Winnebago St. in 1922. Elmer had been a medic during World War I, transporting and handling the bodies of soldiers who died on the battlefield. After the war, he came to Madison and worked for the funeral director Otto Schroeder on King Street. He decided to attend embalming school so that he could start his own funeral business.

Gunderson residence and first funeral home at 1932 Winnebago Street, Madison.

Gunderson residence and first funeral home at 1932 Winnebago Street, Madison.

In 1926  Elmer and Inez built a beautiful new funeral parlor at 1936 Winnebago Street.

Unfortunately, in 1940, at the age of 45, Elmer died of a heart attack.  His wife Inez had 7 young children to raise (5 daughters, 2 sons) so she went to the Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago and took over the business, involving the children in various tasks until they left home.

Bob Gunderson, Pete’s father, was only 14 years old when his father died.  He helped his mother the best he could until he graduated from East High School in 1944. After serving in WW II and attending the UW he went to the Wisconsin Institute of Mortuary Science in Milwaukee to become a licensed funeral director. Under his and his mother’s leadership, the business thrived.  They built a new facility at 5203 Monona Drive in 1956 and acquiring 6 other funeral homes in the Madison area.

The original Gunderson home and funeral parlor was physically moved from 1936 Winnebago St to 107 Dunning St. in 1956.

The Winnebago Street funeral home continued to be used until the property was sold to Security State Bank for their expansion in 1965.

Inez Gunderson died in 1987 at the age of 91.  She had married Elmer in 1914 and became president of the funeral home after this death and continued until her retirement.

Her son Bob died in 2005 at age 79.  He had been in the business for more than 50 years.

By Ann Waidelich

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Dean Clinic subject brought past employees, patients to November meeting

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on November 16, 2016

On Nov. 12th the East Side History Club heard Bob Kann, (http://www.bobkann.com/  ) talk about the Doctors Dean and the history of the Dean Clinic and the practice of medicine from 1904 through the 1950s.

Bob became interested in the Dean Clinic’s history while researching the history of St. Mary’s Hospital. https://stmarys100stories.wordpress.com/

Dr. Joseph Dean Sr. helped to found St. Mary’s and his brother, two sons and grandson became doctors, in part due to Dr. Dean’s example of unselfish devotion to serving his patients and the community. For more on the history of the Dean Medical Group see  http://www.deancare.com/about-us/history/

The East Madison Clinic became a part of Dean Medical Group in 1982 due in large part to the State’s requirement that medical groups offer a type of health insurance called HMO (Health Maintenance Organization). Rather than form its own the Clinic decided to join the Dean organization.

Attending the November meeting were a group of former employees, including two retired physicians, of the East Madison Clinic who spoke highly of the close working and social relationships that developed at the clinic, due in part to the very small building where it was located.

Dr. Cyrus Reznichek  came to Madison to practice medicine in 1935.  In 1945 he founded the EMC with Drs. Eugene Skroch, R.J. Hennen, and William Meisekothen. They opened their offices in the Simley Building, 2037 Winnebago St.  In 1956 the Clinic built their own building at 1912 Atwood Ave.

The clinic was primarily a general practice clinic but over time they added doctors who were trained in various specialties. By 1969 there were 12 doctors plus staff working under very crowded conditions so the building was enlarged.

It was torn down after the clinic moved to a new, much larger building on 1821 South Stoughton Road in 2004.


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November 12 meeting: History of the Dean Clinic

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on November 4, 2016

East Madison Clinic circa 1980.

East Madison Clinic circa 1980.

The East Side History Club presents:
History of the Dean Clinic
Saturday, November 12
1-3 pm
Evjue Room, Goodman Center, 149 Waubesa St.
$2 suggested donation

Local researcher/author Bob Kann will tell how a one-physician clinic founded in downtown Madison in 1904 grew to more than 60 clinics, a health plan, a foundation, and more. The East Madison Clinic, founded in 1945, merged with Dean Clinic in 1982. Bring your memories of being a patient at the East Madison Clinic.

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