History of DeJong-Greaves Celebration of Life Centers
DeJong-Greaves Celebration of Life Centers is owned by Dirk and Terry (Theresa) DeJong. Dirk is the son of G. William and Dorothy DeJong, who bought the Pearson Funeral Home in 1944 on 917 Blondeau Street and established DeJong’s Funeral Home. Bill DeJong, born and raised in Keokuk, was a Licensed Funeral Director for over 50 years. After graduating from Keokuk Senior High in 1935, Bill attended Iowa Weslyn College in Mt. Pleasant where he also worked as a funeral home assistant. After graduating from Iowa Weslyn in1939, he entered the College of Mortuary Science in St. Louis, MO where he also served as a night attendant in one of the largest mortuaries in that city. After graduating in 1941, he returned to Keokuk and became an assistant at Pearson Funeral Home where he worked for three years until he took ownership. He and his wife, Dorothy, operated the funeral home and raised their family of three children in the home. Dorothy assisted in many facets of funeral service and took an active place in the community, alongside Bill. She was a well-known musician and provided organ music for hundreds of funerals. Bill was a full-time funeral director and operator of the funeral home until 1991when he became disabled by an accident which eventually claimed his life in 1993. Dorothy died in March 2005.
From the time of his birth, Dirk lived in the funeral home building with his family and was raised in the family business, helping with the work at the funeral home in many ways. He helped set up tents, carry and drive flowers, and whatever else he was asked to do. During the time the funeral homes also acted as ambulance services for the community, Dirk was on hand many times to assist in emergencies, including the explosion at the Keokuk Armory in 1965.
Dirk graduated from Keokuk High School in 1967 and later from Southeastern Community College. After his marriage to Theresa Neff in 1972, the couple moved to Dallas, Texas, where Dirk attended Dallas Institute of Mortuary Science. Following his graduation, he served an internship at Westover Funeral Home in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1975, he and Theresa returned to Keokuk to join the family firm and became integral parts of the funeral business. He again worked along-side his father and learned to appreciate Bill’s knowledge and experience as a funeral director.
After completing a degree in Mortuary Science and a professional internship in 1998, Terry also became a licensed funeral director. Born in Hancock County, Illinois, Terry moved with her parents, Estel and Cecel Neff, to Keokuk in 1958. She attended Keokuk Public Schools, graduating in 1969. She attended Southeastern Community College and University of Iowa. Terry was as a stay-at-home mother with their four daughters until 1983. She then began helping and doing part-time work at the funeral home. Becoming more and more active and interested in the work, she attended both Southeastern Community College and Carl Sandburg College, and received her degree in Mortuary Science in 1997. She became licensed as a Funeral Director and Embalmer in Iowa and Illinois in 1998. She attended training and became a Certified Funeral Celebrant in 2009 and enjoys helping plan and leading the celebrations of life and remembrance services held at either of their Celebration of Life Centers or at other places selected by families.
Dirk and Terry have owned the business since 1995, purchasing the funeral home when they assumed the leadership role following Bill’s accident. They continue to carry on the tradition taught to Dirk by his parents in his years growing up in the funeral home. His parents always tried to do their best to help people both in the business and in the community through service and contributing where they could. They taught him to do the same and he has tried to carry on their work the best he can.
Terry wasn’t raised in the funeral home like Dirk, but also learned a lot about what the job means from working with Bill and Dorothy. She saw how much help and support they could be to families during a time of profound grief and it has always been important to the both of them to make that the first priority. Service and compassion are values they hold dear and have tried to pass along to their own children.
Dirk and Terry are both licensed in Iowa and Illinois and Dirk is also licensed in Missouri. As full-time owners and funeral directors, Dirk and Terry are actively involved in all activities of the funeral home.
The original business building at 917 Blondeau Street was renovated in the fall of 1960 by combining the existing building with the neighboring home at 923 Blondeau Street, more than doubling the space to accommodate larger services and allow a more modern approach to funerals.
In January of 2011, DeJong’s Funeral Home purchased Greaves Mortuary to create the DeJong-Greaves Celebration of Life Centers. Also owned and operated by different generations of the same family, Greaves Mortuary was started by Robert Greaves, and later owned by William and Mary Jane Kraus, daughter of Robert Greaves. Their son Bob Kraus became the third generation of the family to own the funeral home with his wife Susie. They operated the business from 1972 until 2011when it was bought by Dirk and Terry DeJong and became part of the new DeJong-Greaves Celebration of Life Centers. Dirk and Terry are proud to be trusted to carry on the traditions practiced by Greaves Mortuary and the Kraus family for so many years.
Merging these two historic Keokuk family businesses allowed for the DeJongs to once again usher in modern approaches to the industry. As traditions and styles of funerals are changing, the DeJongs wish to make more options available to families. Celebration of life was not just the name change to the business but also what more and more families wish for as a farewell to loved ones. There are many families who find a lot of comfort in a traditional funeral service. However there are a growing number of families that want something different. We are able to accommodate both of these styles. The options are as endless as the personalities of the individuals we are honoring.
In additional efforts to embrace this change, Dirk and Theresa attended training and became Certified Funeral Celebrants in 2009 which allows them to provide personalized memorial services to individuals and families who either wish for something non-traditional or non-denominational.
In May 2014, Dirk was honored for both 40 years dedication to funeral services and for three years of service as district 3 governor at the 134th annual Iowa Funeral Directors Association Convention in Ames, Iowa. He attends annual continuing education classes to stay current in his knowledge and skills.
We hope that this information has told you a little bit about who we are both as a family and as a business, and where we have come from and what we hope to achieve in our work.