For nearly 40 years, Bob and Cindy Ellsworth owned and operated the Ellsworth Funeral Home in Madison, as well as the Willoughby Funeral Home in Howard since 2012. They passed the torch to Alex Nurnberg in 2018, but five years later, the couple has officially returned to both locations.
“We missed serving area families and friends as we had since 1979,” Bob Ellsworth said. “We’re committed to earning the trust of area residents and providing the kind of professional service they deserve and expect.”
The Ellsworth name has been synonymous with funeral services in South Dakota for even longer, as Bob’s parents, Ray and Blanche, opened the first Ellsworth Funeral Home in 1948 in their hometown of Estelline.
Together, the Ellsworths have decades of experience in the funeral industry, and their newest partners are equally seasoned. Joining the Ellsworths are Terry Lee, Kim Klinkhammer and Mark Kahler. Kahler is the former owner of the Kahler Funeral Home in Dell Rapids, where Ellsworth did his internship before moving to Madison.
This group represents more than 125 years of collective funeral experience, with each member looking forward to continuing the legacies of the two homes. On top of this, Madison native Nate Hofman will join the team through an apprenticeship, splitting his time between Madison and Howard.
Ellsworth added that all prearrangements will continue to be honored and that several building improvements are planned. Throughout their ownership, the Ellsworths engaged in several improvement projects, including the addition of a 150-seat chapel, a casket selection room, reception area and garage.
The building that became Ellsworth Funeral Home was built in 1906, with Andrew and Myrta Hallenbeck moving their own funeral home there in 1927. The Hallenbeck family continued to own the building until its sale to the Ellsworths in 1979.
As for Howard, the history is a bit more complicated.
In 1928, F.W. Tuttle opened a funeral home in the town, with a young H.A. Willoughby working under him. Eleven years later, Tuttle and his wife Mary opened a more modern version, though Tuttle died shortly afterward.
Mary ran the business until 1947 before selling it Willoughby, who changed the name to reflect his ownership. The next year, Willoughby purchased Howard’s other funeral home, Thompson Funeral, from Oscar Thompson.
Willoughby then moved his business to the newly acquired location, remodeling and utilizing the space until a new home was built in 1966. This was the birth of Willoughby Funeral Home’s current building.
In 1977, the home transferred ownership to Dean and Joanne (Willoughby) Sherman, who had worked there for more than 20 years. Terry and Anne (Sherman) Lee then assumed ownership during the 1990s before selling it to the Ellsworths.
Anyone seeking more information or inquiries of service can do so at 605-256-2221 in Madison and 605-772-4681 in Howard, or on their websites, ellsworthfh.com and willoughbyfh.com.