The Helke tradition of funeral service began in 1871, when the Helke family emigrated from Germany to Wausau. August Helke and his son, Charles, made furniture, bar and store fixtures, as well as church cabinets. They started Helke Furniture Company, located at 319 Fourth Street, Wausau, in 1874. Since coffins differed little from fine upholstered furniture, the two craftsmen naturally evolved into the funeral business.
In 1926, Charles bought a house in Wausau on the site of what is now The Fillmor, and used it exclusively for funerals. He was among the first licensed embalmers in the state.
In 1939, Charles and his son Carl built Wausau's first funeral home located at 413 Jefferson Street. The founder's grandsons, Charles and Richard, were part of the business by 1962, when Helke's built a second funeral home on Wausau's expanding west side, at 302 Spruce Street. This remains the current site of Helke Funeral Home and Cremation Services. We are the oldest continually operated business in Marathon County.
In 2020, Wausau Area Funeral Care was established as the overarching brand that includes Helke Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Brainard Funeral Home and Cremation Center, and Spruce Street Crematory. While each business retains its individuality, aligning under Wausau Area Funeral Care allows for the seamless sharing of resources and staff and symbolizes the commitment to serve Wausau and the surrounding area in unity. As such, the Helke family tradition of caring and professional service will continue far into the future.