GREEN BAY — When someone dies, two questions are commonly asked. How old was the person? How did this individual die? When you work in funeral service, you look at death differently, said Dan Malcore, past owner of Malcore Funeral Homes and Crematory.
“Every person has a life story,” said Malcore, who is semi-retired and now serves in a supportive role at the funeral home. “When we would be preparing to set up for a funeral, my children didn’t want to know about how old or how the person died. They wanted to know their story. Some clergy put that in terms of the ‘story of the dash.’ There is a birth year and a death year, but it’s the dash that is the important part. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We have the utmost respect for the human remains and we have the honor and privilege to take care of the human remains. To help with that celebration of life is humbling.”
Malcore, a 2017 Compass Faith That Works recipient, grew up in the family funeral business, which dates back to 1921. He did a variety of tasks during his youth, including washing cars and installing storm windows and screens.
“We not only had the funeral home, but also had two apartment buildings,” he explained. “There was a lot of maintenance, things that children can do. When I was old enough, I was promoted to delivering flowers after funerals and setting up flowers for funerals. I worked my way up.”
Malcore attended Catholic schools; starting out at St. Philip and then attending St. Bernard before Premontre High School (now Notre Dame Academy)
“I was very fortunate to be in parochial school my whole life,” he said. “We made a point of sending our children to parochial schools. We were fortunate enough to continue that tradition.”
When Malcore graduated from Premontre, his father, Gordon, inquired about his future plans with a deadline.
“My parents had six children —three boys and three girls,” he explained. “I was the youngest son. My two older brothers wanted nothing to do with funeral service. He said, ‘By Friday, I want you to tell me what you want to do with your life.’ To take the pressure off of me, I said, ‘Dad, I don’t want anything to do with funeral service.’ I needed to find my own way.’”
Malcore enrolled at St. Norbert College in De Pere to study sociology, and continued to work at the funeral home.
“I came to realize that funeral service really has a lot of parallels to social work, sociology,” he said. “We are helping people in perhaps the most difficult time in their life. I came to realize and look at funeral service as more of a ministry. I saw how grateful people were for what my dad and my grandpa (William Dupont) did. This is a wonderful vocation.”
Following graduation from St. Norbert, Malcore attended Wisconsin Institute of Mortuary Science in Milwaukee. He embraced the challenges of funeral service, including the demanding hours.
“Those were the days when we didn’t have pagers or cell phones,” he said. “We actually had business phones in our homes that could ring 24/7, 365 days a year. If we were to go to a movie, we always had to call every 30 minutes to make sure there wasn’t a death in a home. If there is a death in a home, we get there immediately. That still stands true today. There were no cell phones back in those days.”
Malcore has seen changes in funerals over the years. He recalls when visitation was offered two days prior to the funeral.
Cremations have increased. The funeral home recently added its new Cremation Care Center, which houses a crematory, as well as a large, temperature-controlled area.
“We were the first crematory in this area (1978),” said Malcore. “We didn’t build a crematory until after the Catholic Church approved it.”
During his semi-retirement, Malcore tries to give back as much as possible as another means to live out his faith, including serving as a board member for St. Vincent de Paul, volunteering at Paul’s Pantry a couple days a week and helping at St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter. He also delivers meals to the elderly along with his wife, Mary.
“The cliché is ‘giving is living’ and it’s really true,” he said. “The things that we do, you get back more than you give. For Meals on Wheels, people are on the threshold of having to go to assisted care or a nursing home. They are just trying to hang on and they can’t make a meal for themselves. When you spend a day doing that, you can’t help but be very grateful for what you have.”
Malcore has always been active in the church. He served on the parish council, board of education and taught religious education, along with Mary, at St. Bernard. He chaired the SS. Peter and Paul family prayer night and served the parish as a trustee. He is on the finance council and is overseeing the Bishop’s Appeal at St. Louis Parish, Dyckesville. Malcore is also a part of the Lifelong Learning Institute at UW-Green Bay. He teaches a course entitled “Planning Your Exit Strategy.”
Malcore has dealt with some health issues, including hyperacusis, a hearing disorder, which prompted outreach.
“There was no way for people to come together for a cure so I established, now for 25 years, a hyperacusis network. It’s the only national support group throughout the whole world.
“We all have crosses in life,” he added. “Certainly we can pray to God to take away the cross, but we always have to end it with ‘your will be done.’ Even in the agony in the garden, Jesus still said ‘be it done to me according to your will.’ That’s what we have to do. Mother Teresa said that every morning when you get up the first thing that you should do is kiss the cross. I have a cross on my nightstand.”
Dan and Mary have four sons, a daughter, 10 grandchildren and another grandchild on the way. Dan has correctly predicted the gender of all 11 grandchildren. Sons, Matt and Joe, are now the fifth generation owners of the business.
“I work in the background,” said Dan. “If a family requests me, I will come back.
“I don’t express my opinion to my sons, unless they ask me. My dad was really the opposite,” he added with a laugh.
One piece of advice Dan offers to all, from his experiences in funeral service, is, “Don’t miss opportunities to tell people how you feel about them.”
“If there is someone who is instrumental in your life, don’t wait until they die to share that,” he said. “That message has to be delivered in the living.”