Madison's Cress Funeral Home featured in Reuter's worldwide weird news article today
- This copy of the article is from a South African website.
Dead critters spread cheer at funeral home
February 01 2007 at 11:49AM
By Nick Carey
Madison, Wisconsin - A stuffed squirrel clutching a fishing rod. A
dead badger hefting a football for a winning pass. Other former
rodents enjoying a carousel ride.
Welcome to the world of Sam Sanfillippo, a funeral director who has
amassed a large collection of stuffed animals in unconventional
scenarios to cheer up guests mourning their loved ones - and created a
"This is to show kids when they come for a funeral and they cry," said
Sanfillippo, 86, the semi-retired director of the Cress Funeral Home
in Wisconsin's capital city, Madison.
In one room here stuffed squirrels drink in a warmly-lit saloon, while
over at "The Woodland Fair", families of dead animals enjoy fair rides.
Alongside the numerous display cases and 1 200 fish on the walls,
which includes everything from a hammerhead shark to marlins, are
trophies showing Sanfillippo's prowess as a fisherman.
"I caught all the fish myself," said Sanfillippo, a war veteran, who
is unique as his collection.
On the walls hang pictures of Sanfillippo on fishing trips with
celebrities like former astronauts Deke Slayton, Vance Brand and Tom
Stafford and politicians Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.
Sanfillippo served as a medic in World War 2, receiving five Purple
Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star. A veteran of campaigns in
North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France, he says he was briefly
declared dead in 1944 when a large shell exploded above his unit.
"The shell supposedly killed five of us," he said. "Afterward they
figured that the vibrations of the lorry they put us in started my
heart because I sat up. The driver thought the dead were coming back
to life and he was so scared he ran away."
Since the late 1940s Sanfillippo has worked in the funeral business in
Madison and built up his collection of stuffed animals.
Although he caught the fish himself, the squirrels and chipmunks have
all been killed by cars, with the exception of the albino squirrels,
on display playing basketball or driving miniature cars. Friends in
Marionville, Missouri, who raise them, sent those to him.
"The first time they came I was amazed to find a box of eight frozen
squirrels at the door," sent via United Parcel Service Incorporated,
Buses of tourists come to see his collection on a regular basis.
Andrew Johnson, one of the Cress Funeral Home's directors, said the
home is happy to accommodate guests if they call ahead and no funerals
are under way.
"It's certainly an interesting collection," he added, "but it is most