Alan Bruns began working in the family monument business as a small boy, as soon as he was old enough to follow his father, Raymond Bruns, along the grounds at the City Cemetery or Resurrection Hill Cemetery to mark off a space for burial.
Bruns thinks Bruns Monument Company, which turns 101 this year, is the oldest continuous family business in Pacific.
Since entering the family business in 1988, Bruns is now the fourth generation of his family to serve the funeral industry. Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he also served as the city cemetery sexton.
Robert Bruns emigrated to Pacific from Germany in 1885 and started a flower business here. He married Pauline Drietchen, built a house and large greenhouse at 220 S. Third St.
The couple raised their three children, August, Edwin and Pauline, in the old farmhouse, which is still owned by a family member.
As part of Bruns’ flower business, he served the funeral business, which at that time was operated by John Theibes. That funeral home also is still in operation, although not by the same family.
According to family lore, both Robert and Pauline needed support in their later years and August left school after the fourth grade to care for his parents and run the family flower business.
When Robert Bruns died in 1916, August took over operation of the greenhouse business and was named city sexton. He began selling headstones and founded R. H. Bruns Monument Company in June 1916.
August, known in the family as August Sr., later purchased the site at 206 S. Fourth St., built a monument shop there and moved his greenhouse to that property.
August Bruns Sr. served as sexton for 58 years from 1916 to 1974.
August’s son, Raymond Bruns, would lead the family business for 14 years from 1974-1988.
For 29 years, from 1988 to 2017, Alan Bruns has operated the monument business. He served as city sexton from 1988 to 2014.
Bruns does not know exactly when the official title of cemetery sexton was assigned to his great-grandfather, but he knows that he is a fourth-generation cemetery caretaker and grave opener.