Friendship, partnership cemented for life

In 1968 the firm name changed to Evanson Jensen Furniture and Funeral Home, when Mary Jean and I purchased a 25 percent interest in both businesses. 

The Jensen family gathers at Christmas during Eldon’s tenure in government.

Posted August 23, 2012

By Eldon Jensen

Editor’s note: This is the conclusion to the third installment of Evanson Jensen’s 100th year anniversary history, written for the papers by Eldon Jensen.


In 1968 the firm name changed to Evanson Jensen Furniture and Funeral Home, when Mary Jean and I purchased a 25 percent interest in both businesses.  In 1965 the furniture challenge to be profitable had been met and the furniture operation expanded and moved to a new and larger location at 101 Main St.  Thereafter, the partnership relationship flourished as well with Evie’s business experience, personality, guidance and excellent hired help.  So in 1971 we were offered another 25 percent ownership and became equal partners, sealing the name Evanson Jensen to this day.

Ollie had worked at the store since 1941 and acquired skills in decorating, knowing quality furniture and knowledge of our customers.  She also would “finger peck” on the inside of a display window while someone was washing the outside.    This impeccable appearance of everything was passed on to many faithful employees.  Harold Crow, Helen Hintz, Jack Rafferty, Helen Baumgarten, Anna Zent, Jeff Haase, Alice Ashmore, Eyvonne Langehough, Vi Kostelecky, Bill Logan, Ross Milliken and Ray Huber and funeral home interns, Mike Smith, Curt Jerde and Joe Stout were with the firms during this 25 year period.  Many a story could be told of our relationship and happenings with each but this can be reviewed in our 1987 publication of the 75th Anniversary.



In 1975 Evanson Jensen Funeral Home was relocated to 501 7th Ave. W. upon the acquisition of the Prince of Peace Church north of Lemmon the prior year.  The building was located across the Cedar River, north of Lemmon.  Bids were received for a hog barn, an implement shed and for a funeral home.   Luckily for us we were the highest bidder and the congregation was pleased as well.  The name of the Chapel area, which was their church, remains Prince of Peace Chapel.   The 30’ x 75’ main structure of laminated rafters and 4” x 6” tongue in groove ceiling/roof came to town in one piece, with all the weight at the top of the structure; swaying front to back.   We couldn’t believe one piece of the stained glass didn’t fall out.  The first service arranged from our new location was in mid-January 1975.   Picture of Evanson Jensen Funeral Home Prince of Peace Chapel

In 1976, I was talked into running for the State Senate by Representatives George Mortimer, Belle Fourche and Harold Millett, Reva.  They also had the help of Vernon Evanson’s attorney which must have been the reason he approved and granted the time needed to campaign that summer and fall.    Successful in November, I served Butte, Harding, Perkins and Corson Counties in the ’77 and ’78 sessions and was re-elected to serve in the ’79 and ’80 sessions.   Of course the work of a Senator didn’t just involve the session times, but all year around to committee and constituent meetings.  I could tell this was beginning to wear on Evie and our partnership, even though I took all night calls, weekends and put in many 16 hour days.   Mary Jean put in extra effort and time as well with her phone answering duties and in raising our four children.  So to save my marriage, partnership and see my children grow up, I decided not to run again in 1980.  This is not to say that those four years were wasted.  They were very educational and productive and we met a lot of great people.   Interestingly, the same furniture salesman who disappointed Dick Evanson in 1959 had this to say when I was running, “are you


nuts….you’re going to lose every customer this place has!”   Knowing he was of an opposite political persuasion I should have said, “Then grab your satchel and hit the door…as we won’t be needing any more merchandise.”  He never said anything more in his return visits, but did notice a drop in his merchandise on our showroom floors and an increase in his competitor’s lines, and business at the store kept improving.

Family picture while in Senate

During these busy growth years, Evie put a lot of extra time into the Lemmon Economic Development Corp., helped establish a radio station in Lemmon, oversaw the construction of a Housing Project and enjoyed his game of golf, much like he did when his father was his partner.


Great loss

Our founder, R.S. “Dick” Evanson passed away in 1971 at the age of 84 and was the first death in this family of funeral directors.   I took care of the arrangements, taking my instructions from Grandma Sadie (as our family called her) Evie, Ollie, and his sisters.   After the service while visiting with Evie he related to me and later to others, “I’ve been through this with so many others, but now fully realize with the passing of Dad what they have gone through.”   His personal testing came after nearly 40 years in the profession, not before.  Picture of Dick & Sadie Evanson

Grandma Sadie died in April of 1985 at the age of 87.  In those 14 years of widowhood she continued to be active with her flowers, church and yard, present at our family gathers; and quietly supportive of the Evanson Jensen partnership family.

It was in 1979 and 1981 that we acquired the funeral homes in Mott and Elgin, ND and we were graciously welcomed into those communities.   As the work load increased, Evie and I agreed that another full time funeral director be hired and Bill Logan came on board.   Just to stay busier, we operated a furniture store in Elgin for a time with Jacque Bauer as manager.

Then in Dec. of 1985 Evie announced his retirement and was ready to sell his partnership interest.  We evidently had done well enough as partners to assure his retirement, which he soon would enjoy immensely.  New technology might have had a play in his retirement as the chair episode had for his father.  We had a fax machine, so we didn’t have to telephone newspapers and pronounce and spell every word of an obituary, but when I suggested a copy machine and an electronic cash register, I think Evie started looking toward the door.   He would come in and check on us occasionally, or have a copy of something made on our new copy machine!   But, one time when I asked him to help at the funeral home because we were going several directions at once, he said “No, I’m going golfing.”   He said “perfect retirement is doing all the things you love to do, and as little of the things you don’t want to do as possible.”

Of course, he and Ollie had wintered, prior to retirement, in California and taken many other trips, as well as summers at their cabin in Spearfish Canyon.   They continued to enjoy this and their grandchildren in full retirement after Dec. 31, 1985.

So this takes us through the third 25 year segment of our Centennial, except for ‘86 and ’87 which I will overlap into the next edition.  Doesn’t time fly when you’re 50 or older?