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By Karla Pomeroy

A Family Affair: Mortimore Funeral Home still going strong after 76 years


September 2, 2021

Karla Pomeroy

Mike, Ellen and Mark Mortimore of Mortimore Funeral Home in Thermopolis stand inside their chapel.

THERMOPOLIS - In 1945 Max E. Mortimore purchased the local Eastman Mortuary in Thermopolis, and now 76 years later, the Mortimore Family continues to run and operate the only funeral home in Hot Springs County.

Ellen Mortimore said the funeral home's records, including Eastman's records go back as far as 1918. She said the Mortimores purchased the mortuary for $18,000.

The Eastman Mortuary, and for six years the Mortimore Family Funeral Home were located where the Thermopolis Independent Record is, 431 Broadway.

In 1950 Max and Virginia Mortimore began building the current Mortimore Funeral Home at 620 Arapahoe Street. Ellen Mortimore said at the time the Independent Record wrote that it was "Wyoming's Most Modern Funeral Home."


Max and Virginia's son Clark joined the company in 1959 after attending the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science. Clark and Ellen were wed on Dec. 21, 1956.

After her marriage to Clark, she became the soloist for funeral services. Ellen recalls that after meeting her Virginia told her son Clark that he better "marry that Iowa girl 'cause the business needed a singer."

Ellen began assisting Virginia in the office and is the secretary/treasurer for Mortimore Funeral Home.

In addition to singing, filing death certificates, ordering death certificates, providing aftercare for families, selecting Registry books, service folders, acknowledgements and writing obituaries, Ellen said one of her main jobs is to offer love and compassion to the families that entrust them with care of their loved ones who have passed on.

Their son Mark joined the company in 1982 and then graduated in 1987 from the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science. He serves as the company's funeral director today with Clark passing away in 2014.

Mark is the director for the funeral home and the ambulance service. He served nine years on the National Funeral Directors' Board. His wife Becky is the community prevention specialist.

The Mortimore's son Mike joined the firm after college and serves as president and is the computer technician for the funeral business. He also works with the ambulance service. His wife Dorothy is employed with the Wyoming Department of Family Services.


Technology has provided the biggest changes in the funeral industry the Mortimores said, starting with the memorial folders.

In the beginning type had to be set on old linotype machines and only one folder was offered.

Now, the folders are set on the computer and printed and there are numerous options available, including a few different sizes. Color is also an option, where it was not in 1945.

Mike said there used to be a lot more live music. Now people use "canned" music from CDs or mp3s.

"We never use the organ now but Mom still sings at some services," Mike said.

He said many families include video tributes in services.

Services are less formal including in attire, Mike noted.


The Mortimores try to make families feel comfortable when meeting them to discuss services.

"So many people are hesitant to even walk in the door. They are frightened [and upset]. The teddy bears soften the effect," Ellen said.

Mike added, "A lot of families bring children and children do come to funerals and the teddy bears are given to them if they so choose."

There have been few changes to the funeral home since its construction in 1950. The apartment upstairs where Max and Virginia lived initially and later Mike and Dorothy lived for a short while has been converted into offices.

Another change nationwide is a shift to more cremations, due to cost and convenience.

Mike Mortimore said he advises family to get a plot or a stone or plaque at the cemetery.

"The downside of cremation is they are here and they're gone," he said, adding that with a stone or plaque provides a memoriam for that person who is gone.

Ellen Mortimore said some people also choose to have no services but that is hard on some loved ones.

Mike Mortimore said there are several options for families to still honor the loved one but not have a traditional service. "They can still do something even if it is not with us," he said.

Mortimores work with Davis Funeral Home for their crematories.

The family said they followed all guidelines in 2020 for the COVID-19 pandemic. There were fewer in-person services and arrangements were made through a lot of telephone interviews.


One of the reasons the Mortimores said they have continued to run the business is being able to put families at ease during a difficult time.

Mark said, "Being able to put them at ease and then they know that everything is going to be taken care of. They realize we are here to help."

Ellen added, "I had hoped to marry a missionary, but I believe God wasn't hearing well that day as I married a mortician. Then I found out we are actually missionaries in a sense, as we assist and hopefully offer comfort during the loss of a loved one. We can't 'fill the hole' that a loved one's absence brings but perhaps we can help 'lift' them above some of the issues death brings."

Challenges include working with estranged families to ensure everyone's needs are met, they said.

As for a fourth generation taking over, Mike and Mark said they are letting their children decide, with Mark noting that his son Brenon is considering it.


An ambulance service was included with the purchase of the funeral home in 1945. Ellen Mortimore explained, "At that time it was common for ambulances to be operated by morticians and Max Mortimore used a Cadillac hearse. The hearse is still part of the company's fleet.

She said Max was one of the first to use a station wagon and one of the first to use utility vehicles for this purpose.

Clark Mortimore served on the Wyoming Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board for 28 years.

Currently, Mortimore Ambulance Service has 17 volunteer emergency medical technicians serving the Thermopolis area with an average of 450 calls per year. They have three full-certified ambulances and have been associated with Hot Springs Health since the 1980s.


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