SEILING, OKLAHOMA—He could be here at just about any hour. A funeral director like Ronnie Redinger is on call all the time. “This is home for me,” he says, “sometimes 24/7.” Just like his father James was, and like his grandfather Sam.
“He died when I was 9 years old,” says Ronnie. “I wish I knew what drew him into the profession but I really don't.” Redinger himself was born to the profession so he could never bring himself to throw any of it away. Instead, he put it in what is now the only museum like it in Oklahoma. “Welcome to the Redinger Funeral Home Museum,” he says on the first part of a short, guided tour. “It's the only one in house.”
The funeral business was just a sideline when Sam opened his hardware store on Main Street Seiling in 1914. Sam was already making caskets so he started a little funeral service business. The old, pre-electric embalming equipment was a little crude but he carried it all in a buggy first, then a motorized funeral coach.
The phone number in the old days was easy to remember. Seiling residents just had to dial 4. Sam and his two sons got a lot of repeat business. An old phone exchange occupies one corner of the museum. A visitor remarks on how easy her job was. “Exactly,” says Redinger.
The hardware store closed in 1979. By then Ronnie had taken over the funeral side, living it but at least no longer living in it. “In the mid-60's this building was built and so our home became more private.”
So laid out on portable stretchers and a cold slab, here lies nearly a century of one western Oklahoma family. The visitors' register isn't long, but Ronnie and his son, also in the funeral business, don't mind.
They know the part they've played in this small town. Sooner or later their history will meet everyone elses' too. Ronnie puts it this way, “It's rewarding to me to be able to help people at one of the most trying times of their lives.”