It’s likely that Verdo Werre won’t get through his retirement party at The Tap Room on Saturday without someone telling an undertaker joke.
That is because Werre’s friends are planning a far from somber occasion to say goodbye to the longtime Colusa funeral director.
Werre, who has been McNary Moore Funeral Home’s managing partner for more than two decades, along with his partner, Funeral Director Nadine Marie Benz, are shaking the dust off this small town and heading for a new life in Arkansas.
They will also be taking with them the very popular Miss Mo, the funeral home’s first Grief Support Canine Specialist.
“We are leaving March 1,” said Werre. “We’re looking forward to it.”
While McNary Moore has been a Colusa fixture since 1887, Werre’s 21 years at the helm has made an indelible imprint on the community, as well as the families he helped get through the grief of putting their loved ones to rest.
“I think the most satisfaction I’ve gotten is helping the community, especially this community,” he said.
Werre was raised in Lodi, before moving to Arnold with his parents, who owned and operated a Mini-Mart convenience store. A graduate of Bretharte High School in Angels Camp, Werre was introduced to mortuary services a week before he turned 18, and he soon made that his life’s work. He graduated from mortuary college in San Francisco and worked in both Calaveras County and for a large firm in the Bay Area.
“Once the kids started to come along, I decided I wanted to be in a small town to raise them,” Werre said. “That is how I got to Colusa.”
Werre moved to Colusa in 2001. He is a longtime member of the Colusa Rotary Club, and has been active in community events.
While he met Benz at a convention about six years ago, the couple have only been together about two years. They recently sold their home in the Country Club area and purchased a new home in Corning, Arkansas, where they will be about 12 hours from Werre’s daughter in Texas, who is expecting his first grandchild, and Benz’ son, in Tennessee.
“We like to ride motorcycles,” Werre said. “It’s so green and beautiful there, although you never know when it’s going to rain.”
Like many people anxious to retire and get out of California, the couple said they are looking forward to starting a new life on their three-acre farm. Werre, who is 59, may work occasionally in the business.
Benz said she is looking forward to retiring from mortuary services, which offers few days off and requires service calls at all hours of the night.
“I’m not going to stay in the business,” said Benz, who has been a funeral director for 20 years. “I plan on gardening. I had a really nice garden before I started working here, but you can’t be two places at one time, and this place is really demanding. I also want to raise chickens for eggs, and maybe some goats. And definitely, a lot of motorcycle riding.”
While Werre and Benz said helping people through their grief has been rewarding, the funeral business does have a shelf life.
“You don’t get much of a break,” Benz said. “Sometimes, you just need some time off.”
Janus Advisor Inc. is taking over McNary Moore.
The Chico company operates several well-respected area funeral homes, including the F.D. Sweet & Son mortuaries, in Willows and Orland.
Werre said he may return to help on occasion, if called upon because of the client load.
The couple also said they are fortunate to be able to keep their beloved Miss Mo, the emotional therapy dog that started her service at McNary Moore in 2019, when she was just 12 weeks old.
The public is welcome to stop by The Tap Room from 2-6 PM on Saturday to bid the couple and Miss Mo a fond farewell, and thank them for the service they have given the community. ♣