History & Staff

We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession, dedicated to excellence in service, and have the highest integrity.

Our History

Our History

Craig Funeral Home in Minden and Craig Funeral Home - Jelden Chapel in Hildreth have been a family owned and operated funeral business for over seven decades. Current owners, Eric and Nickola VanHorn purchased the business from Dave and Jane Craig in 2017. The Craig family has been affiliated with the funeral homes since 1979. The VanHorn's take great pride in providing thoughtful, caring and comforting service to the communities and families they serve. 

The Layton family originally built the funeral home in its current location in 1949 after purchasing the Nichol and Smith Funeral Homes in Minden. Kent and Diana (Layton) Felzien eventually took over the family business before partnering with Dave and Jane Craig.  Upon Kent and Diana's retirement, the Craig's operated the funeral  home for many years. 

The Jelden Funeral Home in Hildreth was originated by the Jake Jelden family. Jake was a very well known businessman and entrepreneur in the Hildreth area. He eventually partnered with the Layton family to provide a wider range of services to the community of Hildreth. The funeral home was completely rebuilt in 1994 and has remained at its current location for many years.

The Freeland Funeral Home in Axtell was in operation for many years. The Freeland family was very well respected in their community. The Freeland's eventually retired from  the family business and the Layton family assumed it's operations. The funeral home in Axtell was later transitioned to a private residence and the business was moved to the Minden location.  

  • Eric & Nickola VanHorn

    Eric & Nickola VanHorn Owners/Funeral Director

    Eric received his Funeral Director’s license after completing coursework at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Arapahoe Community College in Denver where he graduated at the top of his class. He has been licensed since 2009 and worked for area funeral homes for many years. He is a member of the South Central Amateur Radio Club, the Minden Volunteer Fire Department, is a volunteer associate for Phelps County Emergency Management and is a Mortuary Specialist for the federal DMORT team which responds to mass-fatality incidents nationwide. He is also District Vice President for the Nebraska Funeral Directors Association.

    Nickola attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. During her time at UNK she was very active with the Women’s Tennis team where she earned many awards for her sporting achievements. She has worked for area Economic Development teams and most recently is involved in administration for a local Orthopedic Surgeon’s clinic.

    Both Eric and Nickola love Minden and enjoy watching their son, John grow and learn new things every day. They are honored to have been given the opportunity to carry on the Craig Family legacy of care and service to the communities they serve.

  • Dave & Jane Craig

    Dave & Jane Craig Funeral Director

    Dave started working for Layton Funeral Home in 1976 while attending college. He was licensed in 1978 and returned to work at Layton’s in 1979. Dave and Jane owned and operated Layton Funeral Home for many years until selling the business to Eric and Nickola VanHorn in October of 2017.

    Dave and Jane have been involved in the community belonging to many organizations and serving on various boards. Dave is a member of Rob Morris Masonic Lodge in Kearney and Scottish Rite and Tehama Shrine in Hastings. Jane is a member of P.E.O. Chapter N in Minden. Both are active members of the Minden United Methodist Church.

    Dave and Jane have three married children and nine grandchildren.

  • Dick & Kay Lyn McBride

    Dick & Kay Lyn McBride Funeral Assistants

    The McBride’s have been part of the Minden community for over 50 years. They have two children and three grand children. Dick has been a funeral assistant with Craig Funeral Home for the past seventeen years. Dick owned and operated the John Deere dealership in Minden for many years prior to retiring. They enjoy attending Husker Sporting events and watching their grandchildren in school activities. They both are very active at the Minden United Methodist Church and have served on many local boards and service organizations including: Kearney County Hospital Board, Kearney County Board of Supervisors and the Minden Opera House Board as well as many more.

  • Lynn & Linda Nelson

    Lynn & Linda Nelson Funeral Assistants

    Lynn and Linda have lived in Minden for several years. They are both graduates of Minden High School. Lynn was employed by the gas company for many years before retiring. Linda was a licensed beautician for many years where she made many lasting friendships and acquaintances. Linda also serves on the Kearney County Health Services Auxiliary. They are both involved in various activities at the Westminster United Presbyterian Church in Minden and enjoy volunteering at Bethany Home in Minden. They enjoy Husker sporting events and spending time with their two children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

  • Mary Evelyn Yant

    Mary Evelyn Yant Visitation Hostess

    Mary is very active in serving at St. John’s Catholic Church in Minden and enjoys helping with various tasks around the community. Mary and her late husband, Jim, owned and operated the Daylight Donut store in Minden for many years before retiring. Mary has also been involved in various aspects of medical help in the Minden area ranging from emergency medical care to nursing. She is an avid gardener and enjoys spending time with her family and attending family sporting events.

  • Gloria Beach

    Gloria Beach Visitation Hostess

    Gloria has lived in Hildreth for many years and enjoys being involved in numerous community activities. She enjoys spending time with her family and watching her grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow. She is a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Hildreth and the V.F.W. Auxiliary. She has served her community in many capacities as the Director of the Golden Year Center as well as practicing care nursing in Minden and Hildreth.

  • Emily Gartner

    Emily Gartner Apprentice Funeral Director

    Emily is originally from the Hastings area and has recently completed her studies to become a Funeral Director. She attended Concordia College and later attended Kansas City Kansas Community College. She is serving her apprenticeship and will become licensed in January of 2019. She enjoys being outdoors and attending musical events. Emily is also a Certified Crematory Operator and assists as a technician for the Nebraska Institute of Forensic Sciences.

  • David Maddox

    David Maddox Funeral Assistant

    David Maddox is originally from Wichita, Kansas and has a vast resume of public service. He served for two years with the United States Peace Corps in Morocco. He also has served as a youth camp counselor at Camp Winadu in Massachusetts. He recently served as a National Advance Staff Liaison for the 2016 Presidential Election. He attended Rockhurst University where he majored in Psychology, Political Science and Philosophy. David enjoys being outdoors and working with youth.

  • Michelle Messbarger

    Michelle Messbarger Funeral Assistant

    Michelle attends the University of Nebraska Medical Center where she is studying Nursing. She is very involved with the Chi-Omega Sorority and enjoys doing volunteer service work. Michelle enjoys playing Tennis and spending time with her nephews and family. She also enjoys being outdoors and hiking.