Some people collect stamps or baseball cards – or maybe dolls or trophies. Marty Mitchell is into all things funereal.
“When we opened Mitchell Family Funeral Home in 2005, I already had a garage full of caskets and funeral memorabilia, so we took an extra room in the new building and made it a museum of sorts,” the Marshalltown native said.
In 2008, an expansion of the original property offered still more room to display the growing collection of memorabilia. By the time the new building for an adjacent crematorium was finished in 2013, there was an even larger space for Marty’s collection, which had grown exponentially.
But let’s begin at the beginning.
A PASSION FOR FUNERAL SERVICE
Martin Lyle Mitchell was the first of two children born to Dean and Mary Mitchell of Marshalltown, Iowa – a tightly-knit town 45 miles northeast of Des Moines, in the middle of the Hawkeye State and with a population of 27,552, according to the 2010 census. Back in 1851, when Henry Anson was looking for a place to settle, he called this high point between the Iowa River and Linn Creek, “the prettiest place in Iowa.”
Like most kids growing up in the 1970s, Marty usually could be found riding his bike around the community. A favorite route for Marty and his friends ran down the alley behind the local funeral home.
“If the door was down, we’d peek in the windows to see that big, sleek, hearse, a sight that made my heart beat a little faster,” Marty, now 50, confessed.
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Southern Calls Issue 29
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