Over 100 years ago,


Francis Joseph Wiefels established the first funeral parlor in a vast region of desert and mountain wilderness of the Wild West.

Frank Joseph Wiefels was born in Krefeld Germany in 1860 and migrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan. At that time it was the U.S furniture capital and in the 1880's he established a cabinet and upholstery business.

There, he met and married Francis Dawson. In those days, the furniture and funeral business were often times intertwined because many furniture companies made caskets, and so Frank decided to attend embalming school in Memphis in the 1890's. From there, Frank and Francis moved to Stockton, California, where their only child Harold Francis Wiefels was born. It was the same year Frank served his country in the Spanish-American War.

In 1907, Frank moved the family to Banning, California, because it was home to a noted tuberculosis treatment location and Francis had fallen ill. There he opened a furniture store on South San Gorgonio Street.

At the turn of the century, Banning was a small but growing farming community without anyone to provide the needed care and facilities when a death occurred. Frank saw an opportunity with his experience and schooling and opened the Banning Undertaking Company in 1908.

Frank had a huge, untamed territory to cover from the High Desert down to the Coachella Valley and west toward Riverside and the Redlands Valley. He was often called upon in the middle of the night to ride his buggy out, filled with gear, a laying-out board and gravity bottles for embalming, to Palm Springs, 29 Palms, Indio or even as far as the Salton Sea. Preparation of the deceased was performed in the family's home, often just a shack lit by lanterns and with no running water.

About 1915, Harold F. Wiefels was taken into the business and the name changed to Wiefels & Son Funeral Directors. Frank and Harold worked together until Harold and his wife, Mary Thompson Wiefels, bought the business in 1928.

Harold and Mary ran the business with the same dignity and thoughtfulness that the community had grown to expect from the Banning Undertaking Company. Harold's death in 1934 left Mary to continue the family business with the assistance of her brother Bert Thompson. The death of Bert in 1945 left Mary again with little help in running the business. Her son Howard, just home from WWII, with plans of continuing his education at UCLA instead attended embalming school and took over the family business.

In 1948, Howard saw the need for mortuary and ambulance services in the expanding desert area, and he moved to Palm Springs and opened a location on Vella Road. In the next several years, additional locations in 29 Palms and Yucca Valley were added by Howard to continue the Wiefels family serving the entire desert and pass areas.

Howard married Diana Jane Sullivan and had two children, Michael and Lori Ann. Howard and Diana were both extremely active in the community. Howard as the Mayor of Palm Springs and Chairman of the Board of Directors for Desert Hospital and Diana as a volunteer for the Maternity Ward of Desert Hospital.

In 1993 Lori Wiefels married Mark Matthews and together they purchased the Palm Springs funeral home from Howard and Diana. In 2001 Mark and Lori acquired the Joshua Tree Memorial Park and the Oceanside Mortuary. The Oceanside Mortuary is the oldest continuously running business in Oceanside California.

In 2004, Michael purchased the Banning location. Also in 2004 Mark and Lori Matthews purchased the Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms locations.

Today, our company has grown to include locations in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, and Oceanside.

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