Jennie Almlie is where our story begins. Jennie graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Mortuary Science in 1934. After receiving her Embalmer’s License in the state of Minnesota in October 1934, Jenny and her husband Jorgen opened the Almlie Funeral Home in Amboy, Minnesota. Two of their children, Marianne and Jorgen, went on to follow in their mother’s footsteps and both received a degree in Mortuary Science from the University of Minnesota in 1942.
Marianne Almlie married Arne Lee in 1945. That same year, Marianne Lee opened the Lee Funeral Home in Winnebago, Minnesota, which was later sold in 1960. Marianne bought another funeral home in Bricelyn, Minnesota named Lura Funeral Home, but she changed the name to Lee Funeral Home.
James “Jim” Lee, son of Marianne and Arne Lee, graduated high school in 1963. Unsure if he would follow in this family’s footsteps, Jim started at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. During his first year of college, he made the decision to become a funeral director and help families through their time of loss. He received his Mortuary Science degree from the University of Minnesota in 1967. After a one-year internship with Olson Funeral Home, Jim became a licensed mortician in the state of Minnesota in 1968. In August of the same year, Jim married Julie Eledredge, whom Jim calls his lifelong love, partner, and friend.
During the Vietnam War, Jim avoided the initial draft by continuing his education. Upon completing his school, Jim avoided the army draft by choosing to serve in the Navy. He served for five years. The last two years of his enlistment found Jim stationed at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam. This particular hospital also happened to run as a funeral home and cemetery.
While there, Jim discovered that Guam civilians wanted to have their loved ones embalmed but none of the islands’ civilians were licensed to do so. This inspired Jim and a fellow embalmer to write to a local senator, Ben Ada, to go through the process of getting a Guam Embalming and Business License. After receiving licensure, they provided embalming for the local funeral homes. They were the first people to ever be licensed to embalm in Guam. They continued their work until Ada opened his own funeral home with another embalmer.
By 1974, Jim’s service with the Navy had ended and he went home to Bricelyn, Minnesota to take over his mother’s funeral home, now known as Lee Funeral Home. That same year, he opened another funeral home in Keister, Minnesota. Jim and his wife Julie kept the two funeral homes in operation until 1989. In 1991, Jim worked for the Woodland Hills Funeral Home and Crematory in Mankato, Minnesota. After working there for five years, an opportunity came up in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he moved and became an independent contractor for three years. In 1998, Jim started at the Pahrump Family Mortuary in Pahrump, Nevada, where Jim later became a partner in 2000. In 2002, a new facility was built that included a cemetery.
Jim’s youngest son, Eric Lee, had the same indecision about growing up like his father in whether or not to continue the family’s legacy. After graduating high school in 1991, Eric pursued and received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry, alongside a Mathematics minor, from Southwest Minnesota State University in 1997. He then decided that he would continue his family’s legacy and received his Mortuary Science degree from the University of Minnesota in 1998. Eric’s internship was under Jim at the Desert Memorial Funeral Home in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eric is the only person so far that has been allowed to complete his apprenticeship from the University of Minnesota in a state outside of Minnesota and the states surrounding Minnesota. After completing the internship, Eric worked alongside his father at the Pahrump Family Mortuary.
In 2002, Jim and Eric purchased the Neptune Society Funeral Home in Pahrump, Nevada. They later changed the name to Lee Funeral Home and Cremation Services. In 2004, they purchased Hites Funeral Home in Henderson, Nevada. In 2014, Jim sold his part of Pahrump Family Mortuary.
Eric and Jim continue to operate Lee Funeral Home to this day.