The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about Wesley Roth who founded what is now the Roth-Gerst Funeral Home. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
Wesley Roth was a Lowell businessman, living from 1903 -1966. Roth owned a furniture company and was a licensed embalmer. He worked as an undertaker and was the ‘Roth’ in the Roth – Gerst Funeral Home.
A funeral home has an important role in any town. The directors, greeters and employees are the unsung heroes. They care for and support the townsfolk at their hardest, most sorrowful times.
In the spring of 1925, Roth began a partnership with his father-in-law, John Brezina, operating a furniture store and mortuary at 220 West Main St. While it may seem odd today, furniture makers were skilled craftsman and making caskets became a natural part of their business. Roth was also a licensed embalmer. The growing business later moved to 202 West Main where the Yeiter Funeral Chapel (1927-1938) had been. You can still see the word “Chapel” in the glass window at that location. Roth continued using his old location for storage.
John Brezina died in 1932, leaving Roth to work the business alone until 1944 when his sons joined the business with the new name of Roth & Sons. The sons were J. Jerald, Donald and Richard. Jerry had graduated with a degree in Mortuary Science and was also a licensed embalmer.
In January of 1945, there was an unexplained suspicious fire at the 220 W. Main location and much of the storage area for Roth & Sons was destroyed. This wasn’t just a business loss for them but also for the servicemen who had gone overseas that had stored their belongings here with the permission of the Roths.
Roth & Sons built and moved into the new Roth Funeral Home at 305 N. Hudson in May, 1950.
Wesley Roth operated his funeral home and furniture business for over 30 years. He served his community as village president for 20 years, was a charter member of the Rotary club, member of the Board of Trade, Chamber of Commerce president, director of the State Savings Band and director of Lowell Savings & Loan Association. He was also a Lowell Lodge member, Shrine Saladin Temple member, and Lowell Congregational Church member.
Upon his death in 1966, his son Jerry became President of the Roth Funeral Home. Jerry Roth passed away soon after, in 1971. He had followed in his father’s footsteps in vocation, and also in service to his community. Besides serving in the Navy during World War II, he also served as a President of the Lowell Rotary Club, a director of the Lowell Showboat, and was a member of the Moose Lodge.
David Gerst Sr, purchased the Roth Funeral Home in 1971 and renamed it the Roth-Gerst Funeral Home. Together with the Gerst sons the business has continued serving the Lowell Community. Their service is not simply by meeting the needs of the grieving, but also in working towards the betterment of the community. Today, despite their own family’s loss of David Sr, David and Mark Gerst continue the Roth- and now Gerst- commitment to Lowell.