Rooks Returns To Pine Ridge With New Funeral Home
The funeral home will include a specious chapel area, seating as many as 120 people, visitation services with a little more privacy, an arrangement room, a nice casket selection room, an up-to-date embalming room, a garage and an apartment on site. Cost of the facility will be about $400,000.
“This is going to be a facility that the community is comfortable with for the final services for a loved one, the decor is done with an emphasis on Lakota culture,” said Rooks who since 2008 helped out with Serenity Springs in Rapid City and built and operated funeral homes in Rosebud and Eagle Butte, “there will be a place for a drum group and overall just more room to provide services.”
Knowing just how long the process takes, a proposal was made to the Pine Ridge Village back in August of 2015, the vote was 55-0 in favor, there had to be an airport clearance being within a mile of an airport, then it went to the tribe’s land committee and the tribal land office where an environmental review was completed. An application for a lease was kicked up to the BIA which required an environmental assessment which took three months and cost $8,000. Next up was the economic and business development committee followed up with the tribal council.
“Well, I’m nearing the tail end of my career, I was homesick and I wanted to finish up my career where I started it, at Pine Ridge,” said Charles Rooks who opened Sioux Funeral Home in 1987, “I sold my original funeral home in 2008, I had a noncompete agreement that expired at the end of January of this year so we’re moving full speed ahead to build and open the Rooks Funeral Home on the east side of Pine Ridge Village, just east of the OST Water and Sewer building.”
On March 1, the funeral home project went back before the council, following an attempt to table the issue that failed 6-10, the council approved supporting the building of a Rooks Funeral Home on tribal land east of Pine Ridge by a vote of 15-1 with one not voting. Wakpamni Dstrict reps questioned approving the plan without taking it before the Wakpamni District since they felt the funeral home would be in Wakpamni District. Richard Shangreaux who is handling the construction and is part of the funeral home joint venture with Charles Rooks, attended the Wakpamni district meeting on March 8 that was also attended by OST land office director Denise Mesteth who brought maps showing Pine Ridge Village boundaries that showed the funeral home was located within Pine Ridge Village.
When asked about the viability of two funeral homes in Pine Ridge, Rooks responded, back in 2008, we had 180-190 deaths annually but since then we’ve seen almost a 30% increase, there were 275 deaths in 2014, 285 in 2015 and 295 in 2016. The funeral home will employ three full time people with two part time drivers, added Rooks, we’d like to begin construction by April 1 and between now and the time I retire, I’d like to train two full time Lakota funeral directors.
“Over the 30 years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve come to realize that it is an honor to take care of a family’s needs when they lose a loved one,” said Rooks, “it’s incredibly important that people are treated with respect in death regardless of their state in life.”