Smiling Success

Macey Martinson standing in front of six open caskets.

When Macey Martinson tells people what she does for a living, she often gets “the look.” That’s because she is a funeral director and embalmer with Homes for Funerals in Norfolk. The look is often followed with the question, “What would ever make you want to do that?” Her answer is always the same. 

“I love to be the smiling face when people are hurting and to make the worst day of their life maybe not so bad,” said Martinson. “When (a grieving family) tells me that I gave them Mom back (after years of sickness before death), that’s like the biggest joy I could get. That’s why I do this.” 

Growing up on the family farm near Platte Center, working in agriculture was always at the forefront for Martinson. However, she began thinking about a career in funeral directing during her freshman year at Lakeview High School when her uncle died, and a childhood friend died less than a month later. In addition to her uncle, Martinson had experienced the death of her grandparents. But her friend’s death really affected her. 

“He was so young, and it was such a tragic accident that I just didn’t know what to think of it,” said Martinson. “We had grown up since we were babies together. I just wanted to be able to help families not have to feel so alone or for people coming to services to see a friendly smile or a friendly face.” 

While CCC does not offer a mortuary science degree, Martinson used the success she had at CCC to prepare her for the program she eventually selected. 

Martinson enrolled at the Columbus Campus in 2010 on a softball scholarship. Her father was in the first graduating class at CCC-Columbus, and her mother and sister had attended as well. Martinson took close to 20 credit hours each semester, including extra science and English courses that are necessary to become a licensed funeral director in Nebraska. Some of her instructors had taught her previously, like Peg Slusarski, who was her English teacher at Lakeview. Martinson was also a member of Spectrum and a student ambassador, which afforded her many opportunities to interact with potential students and their families, a skill she uses heavily as a funeral director. 

“My success started at a small place (like CCC) where I was comfortable and I was able to grow, find my own way and be a member of so many activities,” said Martinson, who served an apprenticeship at Gass-Haney Funeral Home in Columbus during her sophomore year. 

After receiving an associate of arts degree in 2012, Martinson received a full-ride scholarship to attend the mortuary science program at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Because of the extra courses she had taken at CCC, she was able to complete the program in two semesters. Martinson also worked at Chapel Hill-Butler Funeral Home in Kansas City, Kan. 

Martinson returned to Nebraska and went to work for Pender-based Munderloh-Smith Funeral Home, where she finished a second apprenticeship. She said she wanted the small-town feel again. 

“I wanted to be able to connect with families, and if they see me on the street, they know me, I can talk to them, I know their kids, I know their families,” Martinson said. “I didn’t want them to be another face that walks through the office and I never see them again.” 

In 2019, Martinson moved to Norfolk with her husband, Chris, and joined Home for Funerals. The couple is expecting their first child. 

One of the things Martinson is involved in outside of work is teaching discipleship groups for high school age kids at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. She gladly encourages the kids to seriously consider attending a community college. 

“I tell my students at youth group that there is nothing wrong with starting at a community college,” said Martinson, who has since earned a bachelor’s degree. “I could never have gone to (a large university), but I was perfect for Central.”