Known for his hugs, KELOLAND funeral director who helped thousands retires

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Jon Salberg has been helping families with the grieving process in KELOLAND for 38 years.

And 2021 will be his last. The Yankton native started working in the funeral business soon after college. He found it rewarding and never looked back.

“I’ve always said there is no better feeling than when a family comes to me and after the service is all done and thank you we could not have done this without you you’ve been a great help,” said Salberg.

Salberg says helping wives, husbands, children and friends get through the loss of someone they love became a calling.

“I’ve always looked at this as a ministry, my dad is a pastor and you know there are different ways you can minister to people and this is my ministry,” said Salberg.

Jon Salberg and Phil Schmitz

Salberg and Phil Schmitz worked side by side for 37 years. The photo above shows them in their younger days. They worked long hours and learned from their boss George Boom. Later guiding the business and expanding with a new building. Schmitz says Salberg, who is 6 foot 4, is known for being a hugger.

“When COVID came along it was like you had to push him back a little because that’s just who he is you know there is nothing better than getting a hug from a friend or even if you don’t know him,” said Schmitz.

Over the almost 4 decades, hundreds of people have been on the receiving end of one of Jon’s hugs. During that time the hair has gone from ginger to silver.

Jon kept track and says he’s had a hand in planning 2750 funerals, many of them with Phil by his side.

“I can’t think of somebody that I would have wanted to spend my career with more than him. So I don’t know if its harder on me or harder on him today,” said Schmitz.

Jon says walking away from a career he loves is hard, but…

“There are things I want to do while I am still able to do them. I’m sorry that I’m going I’m really going to miss it, but yet I’m anxious and anticipating you know the new chapter,” said Salberg.

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