By Robert Lucke
Bill Cronin has been in Havre and worked at the Holland and Bonine Funeral Home for the last 13 years.
Cronin goes above and beyond the call of duty in a business that many would never even consider going into.
Do you know why we got the name undertakers? Cronin asked with a smile. It is because our business was an undertaking that few ever wanted to go into.
Cronin, a Montana native born and raised in the Stevensville area, had no idea when he was in college that he would end up in the funeral business.
I was going to school in southern Idaho and thinking of becoming a teacher until I read that people were predicting an surplus of 69,000 teachers, Cronin said. So I decided quickly to do something else.
Cronin went to the Mortuary Science School in California and went to work for a funeral home in Bueleh, N.D. They didnt have much work, so Cronin was laid off. He heard that there were seven openings in Montana funeral homes. Cronin applied at Holland and Bonine and went to work in Havre.
The funeral business, Cronin learned early, is not much different than many other area businesses.
One thing we sell is service. In fact, that is what we have to sell, Cronin said. I live here and want to be a part of the community and I want to fit in, so I work hard to do anything in our business that I can to help people out.
In the 13 years that Cronin has been in Havre, the funeral business throughout Montana has made some changes.
I think people are much more educated. I see lots of books and pamphlets out about funerals and even the Internet has information, Cronin said. And just think about cremations. We have a lot more of them than we have ever had before. In the country 55 to 60 percent of all funerals are cremations. In Havre it is probably less than 30 percent, but 10 years ago it was less than three percent. Still though, at least nine out of 10 of our services are traditional.
Being surrounded by grief most of the time is not an easy way for anyone making a living. For Cronin it is particularly difficult at times.
The hardest thing for me is if the funeral is for a close friend or a family I know or a family I know about. Or an infant. Maybe a funeral for an infant, that is the worst, Cronin said.
Many times the funeral business is a close knit family-type business in parts of Montana.
I know here for instance, my wife Nancy helps out in Big Sandy for services once in a while and she does most of the womens hair here at Holland and Bonine, Cronin said.
Even so, here in Montana funeral home ownership is changing. For instance, all but one of the funeral homes in Missoula are owned by the same corporation. All but one of the funeral homes in Great Falls are owned by one corporation along with the funeral home in Choteau.
Another change over the years is that there are classes right here in Havre dealing with grief management.
I took the course myself at the hospital, Cronin said. It is not just for deaths. One woman was taking it because she was entering menopause, another was getting over a divorce. Anyway, those classes really help in dealing with grief. They are very good.
Cronin is proud of the work that Holland and Bonine has done in Havre throughout the years.
Holland and Bonine is a household word in this country, Cronin said. Think of it. Bob Graham was here for 43 years and Pat Hoffman has been here for over 30 years.
Being a family oriented business, it is easy for Holland and Bonine employees to check on every aspect of the business to make sure that things go as well for grieving families as they possibly can.
Still though, it is a tough business.
I have tried to make it easier for people to get through and living in the community and being a part of the community, those things are very important for me, Cronin said.
Bill Cronin has a difficult job, and yet goes about his work with such compassion, he is really a good neighbor.