Posted Online: March 07, 2014, 5:20 am

Christianity incorporated into corporations lend a Lent look

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By Claudia Loucks, cjloucks@qconline.com

Photo: Claudia Loucks / correspondent
Joel Vandemore, of Vandemore Funeral Homes, Geneseo and Atkinson, and Sharon Frank, representing the Lenten committee at First Congregational United Church of Christ, Geneseo, prepare for a Lenten series. Mr. Vandemore will be one of five speakers scheduled to participate.
GENESEO -- A Lenten series will take a look at how corporations incorporate Christianity in the workplace.

First Congregational United Church of Christ, 101 West Pearl St., will begin its "Celebrating Christian Life in the Workplace" series at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 13, and continue it through Thursday, April 10. Each session will begin at 7 p.m., and be followed by refreshments.

Joel Vandemore, owner/director of Vandemore Funeral Homes in Geneseo and Atkinson, will be the first of five speakers.

He will share his belief that what he and his staff members do everyday is "Christianity at its best -- by helping, caring and guiding families through some of their darkest hours during the loss of a loved one," he said.

"I think everyone practices their Christian faith in their own way, but I really believe that these buildings serve our communities as a place of Christian comfort as they mourn the loss of a loved one. Of that, I am most proud."

Without faith, Mr. Vandemore said he would be lost.

"I think that because we cry with families and for families, we are in fact comforted by helping them on this journey," he said. "I think this gives us strength and peace, knowing we have helped and guided them in their loss."

Another way the funeral homes symbolize a Christian setting at their workplace is through a large mural depicting the "Sermon on the Mount." The mural graces a visitation room wall at the Geneseo site.

His grandfather, the late Joseph Vandemore, once had a mural of the "The Last Supper" painted on a wall of a fireplace room at a former Atkinson location he owned and operated from 1936 to 1977.

"Our family always cherished it," Joel Vandemore said. "Unfortunately, it stayed with the building when it was sold."

Yet, it gave him the idea to paint the "Sermon on the Mount" mural at the Geneseo business to incorporate what his grandfather started.

Mr. Vandemore previously worked at Hodgson Funeral Home in Rock Island, where he began his career while still in college.

After Hodgson Funeral Home was sold to a corporation, Mr. Vandemore was offered and accepted a job from Gerry Rux, of Rux Funeral Home in Kewanee

"Over a cup of coffee one morning, Gerry and I agreed to open a funeral home in Atkinson and the rest is history and has been a huge blessing of support," Mr. Vandemore said.

The Atkinson branch opened in 1995, and Vandemore Funeral Home in Geneseo opened its doors in 2004.

Mr. Vandemore's story also fit the church's Lenten series idea of having people discuss "how Christians incorporate faith in their work," program committee member Sharon Frank said.

Other presenters will be:
March 20: Jeff Tunberg, co-owner of Whitey's Ice Cream.
March 27: Dan Pearson, Geneseo, area director for Illowa Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
April 3: Katie Andrios, Geneseo, president of GWK Enterprises, Geneseo.
April 10: Jane Driscoll, owner of Zany Janie Entertainment (balloon art), Moline.

Joel Vandemore
Birth date: July 2, 1967.
Family: Wife, Janel Vandemore; daughters, Emma and Amelia "Mia" Vandemore, both at home.
Hometown: Atkinson.
Education: Atkinson High School; Black Hawk College; Worsham College of Mortuary Science, Wheeling, Ill.
Experience: Hodgson Funeral Home, Rock Island, 1988-1995; Rux Funeral Home, Kewanee, 1995-1997, before establishing Vandemore Funeral Homes, Geneseo and Atkinson.
Favorite Scripture: I know that Scriptures are wonderful and the Word of God, but honestly, there is not just one that I hold as close to me as I do the Serenity Prayer.
Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: Mary, Mother of Jesus. What an awesome responsibility she had and she accomplished it.
Hobbies and activities: Golfing, hanging out with my family and friends, our yearly vacations, and helping my kids with their 4-H livestock projects.
Peak experience: I cannot pick just one, there are just too many. I have been blessed many times over.
Pit experience: Helping a family lay to rest a child.
One thing I feel strongly about: Staying humble. Never forgetting how I started and the people who supported us from the beginning. I will always, always remember them no matter how long we are in business and will never forget them.
I wish I knew how to: Be mechanical. I am not good when I get my hands on a hammer, wrench or saw.