Riley Funeral Home has welcomed a new director to its staff. Daren Preszler will be available to assist families with planning funerals.
Riley Funeral Home has welcomed a new director to its staff. Daren Preszler will be available to assist families with planning funerals.
Daren Preszler is a new funeral director at Riley Funeral Home in Chatfield. After having worked in several larger facilities, he is looking forward to getting to know the families he works with on a more personal level. He has experienced every level of funeral planning, from washing cars to helping a family say goodbye to a loved one.

"In 1999, I decided on a career change...I decided to go back to school to get my degree in mortuary science after following a different career path," Preszler explained. "My father had died when I was a freshman in college, so that life experience stuck with me. I really admired what the funeral director did for our family, so I talked to him about how to get into it, and he put me to work washing cars for the funeral home."

Riley Funeral Home's new funeral director joins owners Jim Riley and Rue Riley in assisting bereaved families with making arrangements for their departed loved ones.

Preszler had attended Minot State University in Minot, N.D., for his undergraduate work, but found he was far more interested in being a funeral director than he'd originally thought, enough to warrant that late-college change in majors.

"I was at the age that people are buying houses and I was washing cars for a living. I found I enjoyed it," he recalled. "I lived and worked at the funeral home, and the next phase, I lived at a Chicago funeral home while I was going to school, and I was immersed in everything that was going on, getting used to the phone ringing all the time."

Preszler, who as a child wanted to become an astronaut "until about sixth grade, when I realized how much science was involved," had a bachelor's degree in business from his time at Minot State, but he had to attend Worsham College in Chicago to obtain his associate's degree in mortuary science, then interned in homes in Iowa.

"I've been all over the place," he said. "You pay a lot of dues when you're new into that line of work and you work a lot. I worked for a corporate place, a company that owns a lot of funeral homes in Minnesota and the Dakotas, moved around with them some."

Preszler explained he landed in the community of Billings, Mont., for a couple years, where he met a woman on vacation who worked at the Mayo Clinic.

"I took a job in Rochester for a large funeral home, Ranfranz & Vine, and then my wife and I did some traveling and I did my own thing," he added.

Having taken time off to refresh his ability to care for the living while they mourned their deceased, Preszler started searching for a small funeral home where he could "get to know the families," where he could be as sincere as he wanted to be, rather than having to keep track of families through consulting funeral arrangement files.

He was pleased to be accepted as part of the staff at Riley Funeral Home. "Families here know Jim and Rue...they've been here forever. You're not a number in a smaller community."

Preszler has learned numerous life lessons from the people with whom he deals. "I enjoy meeting people. I've learned a lot from people, especially those who are a lot older than I am," he said. "You get great marriage advice from people - I was making arrangements for an older couple who came into one of the homes I worked at, and they had been married for decades. I asked them how they stayed married for so long, and he looked at me so seriously and said, 'Always put your spouse before yourself.' It's the little tidbits you learn along the way."

Through his career experiences, Preszler said he has become very comfortable with death. While the American society has some "death avoidance" issues and people like to think they are going to live forever, he said he tries to encourage them to at least tell their loved ones what their wishes are for their funerals.

"I've learned that each community has somewhat unique customs and rituals, and anytime you have the opportunity to work and live somewhere in different parishes and churches, you'll find there's a similarity but that each place is unique," Preszler added. "I'm very comfortable with the many different faith traditions served."

Riley's new director lives in Rochester with his wife, Nebraska native and Mayo Clinic employee Lisa. The two are members of Bethel Lutheran Church.

They are currently considering getting a little dog to greet them when they come home from work, but the jury's still out.

"My wife and I enjoy traveling together and we're thinking of getting a little dog, but not yet," he concluded, noting that once one gets a dog, it's difficult to travel sans dog.

Preszler enjoys spending his spare time getting back into bicycling and enjoys the trail in Lanesboro. He said he also enjoys hiking and just about anything outside.