By Jim Schroeder
Holland and Bonine Funeral Home has been an important part of the Havre community for nearly a century.
Its owners were very prominent. James Holland Sr. was active politically and lobbied for the creation of Beaver Creek Park south of Havre. George Bonine was active in the Montana Legislature. A street is named after him at Montana State University-Northern. A former partner of the funeral home, Emil Eliason, was Hill County coroner for 30 years and also active in the Republican Party and the Masonic Lodge.
The current owners of the funeral home, Patrick and Karen Hoffman, purchased it in 1969. Patrick was on the Northern Montana Hospital board of directors for 13 years and helped establish a chemical dependency program at the hospital. He's been a member of the Elks Club for 35 years and also was active in the Montana Funeral Directors Association.
"When you're in a small business in the community, you have to be involved with the community," he said.
The funeral business is similar to the medical field because of the continuous hours that a funeral director must be on call, Patrick said. He still remembers the long hours spent by the phone when he first started working at the funeral home.
"When I first started ... we were tethered at home or at work to the phone," he said. "These days cell phones and pagers have given the funeral directors more freedom.
"It's a different kind of business," Patrick added. "There's a lot of one-on-one with clients and their families."
Patrick, a Great Falls native, and his wife, Karen, have two daughters, Jill and Jennifer. Jill followed the path of her mother and is a third-grade teacher in Las Vegas. Karen taught at Rocky Boy and Davey schools, but quit teaching in 1974 to help Patrick in the funeral home business.
Jennifer decided to follow the career path of her father and is a licensed funeral director and manager of Holland and Bonine Funeral Home. She also vice president of the state Funeral Directors Association.
"With a family business, you're always there and you're going to do everything to make it successful," Jennifer said. "I wanted to work with him and learn a lot from him."
Jennifer studied business technology and graduated with a bachelor's degree from Montana State University-Northern in 1996. Then she decided to study mortuary medical science and received an associate's degree from Mount Hood Community College in 1997. She was fully licensed and working with Patrick by 1998.
"When I was little, I didn't like it because it's a hard business," Jennifer said. "It's a 24-hour business, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
"Sundays or Christmas, we're here," Jennifer said. "If you call here anytime of the day or night, you won't get answering machines."
Jennifer continues to follow the lessons Patrick taught her about the business while she was growing up.
"You need to have a warm and kind heart that's open to caring for others," Jennifer said. "That is what I learned from my father."
Like her father, Jennifer is also active in the Havre community. She is involved with the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, the Catholic Daughters and the Northern Montana Hospital Foundation board.
"I try to support Havre because we like the people here," Jennifer said.
The funeral home was established in 1906 and was called the Gross Undertaking Co. In 1908, James G. Holland Sr. purchased the company and combined it with his mercantile business. In 1911, his son, James G. Holland Jr., joined the the business and the new Holland and Son Funeral Home was built at 125 Fifth St.
In 1926, G.J. Bonine joined the firm and the name was changed to Holland and Bonine Funeral Home. In 1933, Holland and Bonine purchased the residence at 210 Third St. and the business has been there since.