The Work We Do: Karen Heppner, McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home

My name is Karen Heppner and I am a New York State licensed funeral director. I am one of the funeral directors at the McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home, located in Riverhead.

My role as a funeral director is to assist families when they have lost a loved one. They really don’t know what to do; it’s not something that they do every day. 

My husband, Mark, and I started working here in the early 1990s. It was always his dream to become a funeral director. He is a very compassionate man and I think that attributed to his desire. In 1995, we had the opportunity to become partners here in the funeral home and my husband immediately enrolled in school. Thereafter, in 2006, the online program began in New York State and I entered that program and I graduated in 2009 with an associate degree in applied science.

We were born and raised here, so, many of the people we know in the community. For about 60 years the funeral home has been in existence.

Some of the challenges of this job — we personally know the individuals who have died. That makes it even more difficult. They are family members of mine, they are friends of mine, and even if I don’t know them, once I sit down with the family and we talk about them and we plan their funeral, I feel like, in the end, that I do know them. 

We have key employees who are here as well. We have Laura Stimpfel, who basically keeps everything running here at the funeral home. We have Michael Underwood, who is a director here with us, and we also have John Kruel, who is our doorman and he works on the funerals as well. 

Our main goal is for our families in our community to know that we are here for them 24/7. They are not alone when this happens to their family, when their loved one dies. We don’t want them to feel alone. We want them to know that our door is always open, that we are here, we’re going to take you by the hand, and through this whole process, we are your funeral director, but hopefully in the end, we will be your friend. 

“The Work We Do” is a News-Review multimedia project profiling workers around Riverhead Town.