Q&A with Deb Waldner and Dayne Waldner, owners of Peace Country Memorials Ltd

Deb Waldner and her son Dayne Waldner continue with the Waldner family tradition of creating memorials.

Since 1958, creating memorials has been a family tradition for the Waldner family in the Peace Country when Harold Waldner and his brother, Alvin Waldner, established Town & Country Memorials. They initially operated out of Lethbridge, and would come to the Peace Country to pour concrete grave covers onsite in the cemeteries.

In 1962 Harold moved his family to Rycroft to provide service in the area while his brother Art moved to Westlock, where he opened a small sales office – both still operating under Town & Country Memorials.

In 1972, Harold changed the name of the business to Peace Country Memorials Ltd and operated independently from his brother. After Harold’s passing in 1987, his son Hal, at the age of 23, managed the company and continued to successfully grow and operate the business until his untimely passing in 2009. Peace Country Memorials continues to thrive as a family owned and operated business, celebrating its 46th year in business in 2018.

The company’s service area spans approximately 400 kilometres each direction from its Rycroft location, providing service to more than 150 cemeteries, with outlying support from memorial counsellors working out of several funeral homes in the area.

Back, from left: Brett Cordingley, monument builder; Kali Lanigan, memorial sales; Deb Waldner, owner; and Dayne Waldner, owner. Front, from left: Natasha Thompson, memorial designer; and Raegan Stanich, memorial designer.

Cremation rate is steadily increasing everywhere. Did it have an effect on your business?
Yes, it has impacted us. The biggest impact is in the types of monuments we supply. With cremation, as many as six urns may be placed into a single plot. This means a single monument will need to accommodate multiple inscriptions, as compared to full burials in which each has its own monument. We also supply monuments where the urn can be placed inside the monument.

Design plays a key role in creating memorials. How did you retool your business over the years to make sure it is responding adequately to customer demand?
Over the years, families have been requesting design elements that are characteristic of their loved one to personalize the memorial. New design elements may be an image of a tattoo, an emblem, hobby, portrait, figure or scene that is meaningful. With technology and computer programs available to our designers, they are able to create a layout to share with the family. We have the ability to laser etch onto black granite, creating portraits or designs from photographs provided by families. We also sandblast onto various colored granite memorials, creating unique design elements. Keeping our equipment current also assists us in managing sales volume.

Many families in Central Peace and beyond, no doubt, have been touched by your service. Tell us some of the best testimonies you’ve received over the years.
Our team assists families in creating a memorial that is a lasting tribute for their loved one. From sales to design to production and finally installation, attention to detail is given to each and every memorial we produce. Families have expressed gratitude in phone calls, e-mails, and cards received in the mail. On occasion, our installation crew have been honored while setting up a memorial in a First Nations cemetery. They have been invited to stay for the local celebration, blessing and feast of food prepared by the Aboriginal people. Some of the testimonials we have received include:

“I thank you for your time and would like to give a big shout out to your company; it was an amazing experience even though my heart was still bleeding tears of sorrow for the loss of my son. Very kind and considerate staff, understanding and just thoroughly and generally good people.”

“Thank you for your prompt and expert service. I appreciate it beyond words. May God bless you.”

“To the Waldner Family and Employees. In the midst of stress I found peace at PCM. I was able to relax because our budget was little. You helped us greatly. I appreciate each one of you. I recommend you to a lot of people. Peace and love from our family. Simple help can bring powerful comfort.”

What do you think is your biggest advantage over your competition?
Being a family owned and operated local business probably gives us the most advantage. We have provided service in the surrounding area since 1972 as Peace Country Memorials, and developed relationships with families. We are also fortunate to have funeral homes in the area that provide memorial sales on our behalf – Oliver’s Funeral Home (Grande Prairie), Chapel of Memories (Peace River, High Prairie, Slave Lake, Valleyview and Fairview), Marie Froese (LaCrete), Beaverlodge Funeral Service (Beaverlodge), Bergeron Funeral Service (Dawson Creek), Hamre’s Funeral Chapel (Fort St. John), and Reynars Funeral Home (Dawson Creek).

How are you dealing with some of the challenges in your day-to-day operation?
Each challenge requires good communication – whether it be internally, or with customers, cemetery caretakers or suppliers. Each challenge requires fair and reasonable solutions.

What kind of community outreach do you do as a business?
Our community support can be seen in our sponsorship, signage and donations in our community of Rycroft and surrounding communities. We support our local arenas, Rycroft Arena Board, sports teams, both minor sports and Rycroft Rage, as well as local athletes who have gone on to play on elite sports teams in Grande Prairie.

We make donations to community annual fairs, fundraising events held by Kinnettes, Stars, Compassion House, Rycroft Race the 8, Rycroft Winter Frolic, Wanham Plowing Match, Legion, Stollery Children’s Hospital, Vertex Spring Dance.

We also contribute to our veterans through Last Post Fund and Commonwealth War Graves Commission. In addition we created a program in 1998 in which we make a donation to each cemetery in which a new memorial has been placed. Since 1998 we have donated over $81,270 to cemeteries in the Peace Country. The donations come from Peace Country Memorials and our memorial counsellors.