The history of the Emanuel family providing dignified funeral service to Milbank and the surrounding area dates back to 1879.
The Emanuel story begins with founder Edward (E.J.) Emanuel, a cabinet-maker who came to Milbank over 130 years ago. In May 1881 Mr. Emanuel opened a funeral home and a furniture store. Edward appears to have been preoccupied with the number seven, viewing it as a symbol of "good luck" and even went so far as to put a large number seven above the door of his business. As a result, he was affectionately nicknamed "Lucky Seven".
In 1910 William F. "Will" Emanuel purchased the funeral business from his brother, E.J. "Lucky Seven" Emanuel. William owned and operated the business until 1917.
In 1904 E.E. Emanuel came to work for his second cousin, Lucky Seven Emanuel. E.E. was licensed as an embalmer in 1906 and went to work for a funeral home in Madison, SD. He was united in marriage to Elsie LaBay in March 1916. Following their marriage, the couple came to work for Will Emanuel in 1916, and they purchased the business in 1917.
Elsie, also a licensed embalmer, was born north of Madison, SD, on December 18, 1894, to Charles and Alida (Clough) LaBay. She graduated from Washington High School in Sioux Falls, SD, in 1913 and completed her nurse's training at the Madison Hospital, graduating as a Registered Nurse. She received her embalmer's license in 1918 and she and her husband owned and operated Emanuel Funeral Home and Furniture Store. Her husband Ed died on July 1, 1958, the year that the Chapel was added onto the residence at 312 S. Fourth Street in Milbank. She remained active in the business until 1982. Elsie, affectionately known as "Grandma", died on June 28, 1984, after celebrating sixty-seven years of business in Milbank.
James E. "Duke" Emanuel, was born on September 2, 1919, in Milbank. He graduated from Milbank High School in 1937 and from South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD, in 1941 with a degree in agricultural economics. As a Veteran of WWII, Duke served his country as a Captain in the US Army from June 25, 1941, until he was honorably discharged on May 25th, 1946. He served in New Guinea and Luzon in the Philippines. Jim was united in marriage to Marion Dempster on January 12, 1946, in Sioux Falls, SD. He attended mortuary school at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, from 1946-47. He then joined the family business as a partner with his parents.
He was called back into the US Army during the Korean War as an instructor to commissioned officers. Jim was honorably discharged on Dec. 29th, 1952. After his father's death, Jim owned and operated Emanuel Funeral Home, Emanuel Furniture Store, and Emanuel Ambulance, until retiring in 1997. He then sold the furniture and carpet store and ambulance service to his son and daughter-in-law, John and Heidi Emanuel, and the funeral home to his daughter Nancy (Emanuel) Patterson and her husband Norm Patterson.
Nancy (Emanuel) and Norm Patterson returned to Milbank in August 1980 following Norm's graduation from the University of Minnesota Department of Mortuary Science. He apprenticed with his father-in-law, Jim Emanuel, for one year, took his South Dakota licensing test, and was licensed in 1981. Nancy was Norm's right-hand person. The couple worked together with families in need for nearly thirty years.
In 2010, Norm and Nancy retired and sold the funeral home. The Mundwiler family and staff continue to operate the funeral home with the same commitment to quality that has been the trademark of the firm for four generations.