Westen H. Anderson brought a human touch to the funeral home industry for over 50 years, both by comforting families and advocating for his employees to start their own businesses.
He brought that same enthusiasm to his volunteer work with the American Swedish Institute.
Anderson, 81, died on April 28 from congestive heart failure.
A second-generation mortician, he took over his father’s funeral home, Henry W. Anderson Mortuary, when his father died in 1967. Westen Anderson was in his early 30s then and stayed active in the business until recently.
“We had one of our last board meetings at his house earlier this year,” said his son Timothy Anderson, who became the third-generation owner of the business.
The original Henry W. Anderson Mortuary, founded in 1931, was on Lake Street in Minneapolis. It moved to the Standish neighborhood in 1956. A second location opened in Apple Valley in 1988.
The business was a family affair with his wife, Carol, working at the funeral home and both of his sons, Daniel and Timothy, joining the business as adults.
Anderson also will be remembered for mentoring and helping to launch a number of funeral directors who worked for him.
One of those employees was Mike Carroll, owner and funeral director at the Olson & Swanson Chapels in Rush City and Pine City, Minn. He worked for Westen after he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1975 and then in 1981 moved to Rush City and acquired his own funeral home business.
“Prior to my time there, there were a number of funeral directors who went on to start their own business,” Carroll said. “Wes instilled in me the ability to look at things long-term.”
A funeral director’s long hours can be difficult on family life, but Daniel Anderson said as a boy he looked forward to out-of-town trips with his dad, rides in the hearse and the stops in small towns and cafes.
“You don’t always have the chance to go to work with your father,” he said.
Outside of the business, Anderson will be remembered for his good sense of humor — always enjoying a practical joke or two — and his involvement in a number of Swedish social groups, he said.
Only being half-Swedish, the sons remember their grandmother, who was of English and Welsh descent, chiding, “You are only Swedish by English consent.”
A lifetime member of the American Swedish Institute and active with the organization almost as long as he was a licensed funeral director, he was known to carry membership forms in his pocket at all times. He was also a longtime member and past president of the Gustavus II Adolphus Society, Punschklubben, the Svenskarnas Dag committee and a member of the Masonic Order and Minnehaha Masonic Lodge #165 Af & AM.
“Westen was a very dedicated life member of the American Swedish Institute — as were his parents and others in his family,” said Bruce Karstadt, president and CEO of the Minneapolis-based institute. “One of his passions was in boosting our membership rolls, so you’d often find Westen volunteering his time at such events as our Midsommar celebration and talking to visitors about the benefits of being a member and supporting our exhibitions and programs.”
Services have been held. He was buried at Lakewood Cemetery, next to his wife, Carol. He is survived by his sons and his daughter, Kari Watne; and six granddaughters, a nephew, two nieces and seven great-nieces and nephews.