- Dedicated to providing quality, compassionate service to Breckenridge
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by Erin C. Hevern â€¢ Daily News
Published/Last Modified on Monday, December 1, 2008 11:40 AM CST
may have saved your life.
may also have helped put to rest a loved one from your family, or in the family of someone you know.
Born and raised in Breckenridge, Mikkelson has been the long-time director for Ambulance Service, Inc., and is a licensed funeral director and manager with Joseph Vertin and Sons.
has dedicated more than 30 years to the city of Breckenridge, helping its residents through times of tragedy and helping to provide the community a meaningful service in two separate entities.
It was in January of 1971, when Mikkelson returned from completing his education at the University of Minnesota, that he joined the staff at Joseph Vertin and Sons Funeral Home.
Growing up, Mikkelson
family lived across the street from the Vertin family, whose business was intriguing to him.
"I always kind of admired Joe Vertin Jr. — the way he
carried himself and his
Over the years, Mikkelson has really grown into the position of manager at the funeral home.
Grateful to the Vertin family for allowing him to do that, he
takes pride in what he
believes its important to serve each family as if it were his
own and to take care of each personal detail, as families will allows him.
said, families are very receptive to suggestions he
makes to create a special funeral.
What is rewarding about being a funeral director, Mikkelson said is when weeks, months or even years later a family approaches him and says to him that he made a difference in their lives by making a difficult time in their life much easier.
"I want each family to feel like they are the only family being served," Mikkelson
It was the Vertin family who also stimulated his
interest in the Ambulance Service
Before Ambulance Service, Inc.
came to fruition, which now serves Wahpeton and Breckenridge, and the surrounding area, funeral homes ran separate volunteer-based ambulance services.
was often asked by the Vertin family to help out on calls every now and then during high school.
returned to Breckenridge in 1971, Mikkelson
also joined the Ambulance Service
, which had been formed as its own business by Tom Vertin.
"I take great pride in the service we have," Mikkelson
Mikkelson's first task with the ambulance was taking an EMT course, which led to him teaching the EMT course to others who wanted to join the service.
Their staff now has four full-time paramedics and 20 volunteer EMTs, who are paid when they go out on calls.
There is always one paramedic with the truck and another on call, he said.
Being able to respond to an accident scene or medical call as quick as possible is an important part of providing a quality ambulance service.
believes Ambulance Service, Inc.
is one of the best available.
"We're not in it for the profit of it as much as we are in it for the people we have working for us, making residents happy and the good equipment we have available," Mikkelson
Ambulance Service, Inc.
not only provides medical care, but Mikkelson
and volunteer EMTs also work to educate the community on ways they can protect themselves and others from injury.
For many years, Ambulance Service
has provided CPR and First Responder training to businesses, city and county officials, and schools.
The service also often partners with Richland and Wilkin county health departments in prevention efforts.
Most recently, Ambulance Service
responded to a mock crash meant to teach students the dangers of drunk driving held on North Dakota State College
of Science campus.
In addition to working for the funeral home and the ambulance service, Mikkelson took on duties of Breckenridge Mayor in 1976 and 1977.
An experience as mayor that Mikkelson
will never forget was the Stratford Hotel fire in January of 1977 that took the lives of 16 people.
, a large number of firefighters, and many others responded to the scene around 4:30 a.m. Mikkelson
remembers taking on several roles that day, one as mayor and the other as a member of the Ambulance Service
Because they weren't taking victims of the fire away to the hospital Mikkelson stood by with the ambulance to take care of firefighters overcome by the extreme winter conditions.
As mayor, he was the focal person for national news media.
The tragedy didn't end for Mikkelson
when the fire was put out, however, because afterward he
had to assist in figuring out how to identify the 16 bodies.
had to deal with the grieving families.
experience in funeral directing helped him to be caring and compassionate during that time.
A second memorable experience for Mikkelson
was when Breckenridge ran out of river water and officials had to go out and drill wells — an expensive feat to overcome.
Mikkelson's time as Mayor was short, due to his
time dedicated to the funeral home and ambulance service.
"In fairness to both the city and the funeral home I chose not to run again," Mikkelson
Throughout the years, Mikkelson's dedication to Joseph Vertin and Sons
and Ambulance Service, Inc.
has remained consistent.
It's only difficulty, Mikkelson
said, is that "it's very time consuming and has in the past taken from my own family."
Regardless of the difficulties, Mikkelson
has had a rewarding career and enjoys serving the people of Breckenridge, many of those being people he
has known much of his
"It's very self-satisfying to me," he
After all these years of service, is retirement on the horizon for Mikkelson?
"What would I even do," said Mikkelson
with a smile.