Jacob Gerend Sr., one of Sheboygan's pioneer residents, founded Zimmer Funeral Home of Sheboygan in 1878. In those early days, Mr. Gerend had to build his own coffins, which was custom at that time. His son, Jacob Jr., entered the company business in 1886, eventually being devoted to furniture and undertaking. Raymond Gerend began management of the Gerend Funeral Home in 1935, selling the business to John Habermann in 1965. John Habermann owned and operated the Gerend-Habermann Funeral Home for thirty-one years. In 1988, John began construction on Sheboygan's only funeral home designed and built in the last half of the twentieth century.
Walter was born in Sheboygan on July 8, 1896. He graduated from the Marquette School of Funeral Service in Milwaukee, obtaining his funeral director license in 1918. He apprenticed in Sheboygan at the former Kroos Funeral Home where he worked for 11 years, eventually becoming the manager.
Walter Ahrens driving the Kroos Funeral Home Furniture Truck Circa 1921
Walter opened a furniture store, grocery store, and funeral home in Sheboygan Falls with his brother, which he operated for 16 years. He did the same in Howards Grove, eventually moving the funeral operation into what was, at that time, a state-of-the-art funeral facility (see the news clip) in September 1929. Walter remained an active funeral director for over 60 years, passing away in 1979.
John began his career in funeral service as a director with the Hafemeister Funeral Home of Watertown. In 1965, he purchased the former Gerend Funeral Home in Sheboygan. John provided caring service to the community for over thirty years as owner of the Gerend-Habermann Funeral Home until he sold the firm to Mark Zimmer in April of 1996. John retired in August of 1997.
Gerend Habermann Funeral Home from 1942 until 1988
Mark Zimmer graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in 1977. He began his career in funeral service in Davenport, Iowa, as a licensed funeral director until acquiring the Ahrens funeral home in Howards Grove, WI, in 1983. At that time, John Habermann was providing professional services at the former Ahrens Funeral Home in Howards Grove, a rural village north of the city. Mr. Zimmer and Mr. Habermann became associated at that time, working together at the two funeral homes. John Habermann sold his interest in the Habermann Funeral Home to Mark in 1996. John retired in 1997 and passed away in 2001. Mark commissioned the design and building of the Westview Funeral & Cremation Care Center in 2003, offering Sheboygan's first and only funeral center built in the 21st century, serving both traditional and contemporary funeral families. In 2010, the downtown Sheboygan funeral home was consolidated into the Westview Funeral & Cremation Care Center. In July of 2014, Mark purchased Ballhorn Chapels Funeral & Cremation Care Center, bringing back local ownership of this heritage business. After the purchase, Mark and his staff began an extensive remodeling project of the historic Ballhorn building, installing the latest technologies to enhance families’ comfort and funeral experience. Ballhorn and Zimmer Westview both have state-of-the-art crematories on site. Mark and his staff sustain the traditions started by the Jacob Gerend and John Ballhorn families in Sheboygan by continuing to provide residents with the highest standards of service that only an independently owned funeral home can give. They are proud to be one of Wisconsin's oldest and largest firms.