A Death In The Family Leads Man To A New Career

By Erika Janik | April 27, 2016


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Death is something we all experience. But what we don’t experience much anymore is the actual dead body of our loved ones. 

Jonas Zahn didn’t plan to make a career in casket-making. But when his grandfather died, Zahn and his family built a casket for him. It was a time for them to be together and to share their memories of their grandfather. 

“Something I realized in that process is how disconnected I was from death,” says Zahn. “I got to go to his house and experience the body of my grandfather. I realized that’s the only time in my life, unless you are in a medical or emergency response profession, we don’t really encounter deceased bodies.”

That unique situation and experience left an impression on Zahn, one he thought that other families would benefit from as well. So he decided to start a sustainable casket business, Northwoods Casket Company, marrying his interests in the environment with the handcrafted ethic his family brought to the casket they constructed for his grandfather.

“Everything we make is made in Wisconsin by Wisconsin craftsmen from Wisconsin woods,” says Zahn.

It’s a personal and local touch that Zahn believes is lacking in the funeral industry. It’s a emotional work that doesn’t change no matter how many caskets they make.

“Every one of these caskets is somebody’s mom or dad,” says Zahn.




Erika Janik

Erika Janik

Erika Janik is the co-creator and former executive director of Wisconsin Life. She is the author of six books, including Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction, Apple: A Global History, and  Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine. She’s currently the executive...
2018-01-19T17:52:53-06:00Tags: , , , , |

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