Pictured (from left): Kevin Thomer, Roni Drexler, Shirley Graveen, Gerry Graveen. Photo: Christina Kimball for Wausau Pilot & Review

Wausau Pilot & Review

Editor’s note: Business of the Week is a sponsored feature that shares the stories of locally-owned and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the metro area’s unique flavor. Learn how to feature your business by emailing christina@wausaupilotandreview.com.

This week’s featured Wausau-area business is Peaceful Pines Pet Memorials and Family Sanctuary in Mosinee. Launched 25 years ago by Gerry and Shirley Graveen, the business changed hands this summer. Now, Roni Drexler, who began working at Peaceful Pines part-time a few years ago and later progressed to manager, is at the helm, with the personality, compassion and determination to keep Peaceful Pines Memorials the best pet loss option for central Wisconsin families for years to come. In addition to pet cremation services, a Pet Memorial Park offers a beautiful space where pets can be buried in a casket or urn, with a personal memorial to mark your pet’s final resting place. The Honor Garden, designed several years ago, is meant for local K9s, hearing ear dogs, sight assistance dogs or local therapy dogs with at least 250 hours of service, with burial plots donated by the business. In addition, the Graveens developed a Family Sanctuary in 2007, a state-licensed and regulated cremation-only section of the memorial park where pet owners can be buried with their beloved animals.

New owner Roni Drexler is a lifelong animal lover who grew up on a farm, milked cows through high school and has always had pets. Drexler is joined by her fiance Kevin Thomer, who works behind the scenes brainstorming and implementing improvements, along with Drexler’s aunt, Laurie LaSee, whose love for pets, attention to detail and life experience makes her an irreplaceable member of the Peaceful Pines family. She has many hours under her belt helping dogs and has helped find homes for many Samoyeds, giving several their forever homes within her own four walls. Cindy Steinke, who started working part-time for the Graveens about 18 years ago, is another invaluable asset to the team. As a fellow business owner (at K-9 Elementary), her experience and support has been exceptional as Roni continues serving the people and pets of the Wausau and Mosinee area – with a solid vision for the future.

For Roni Drexler, the experience at Peaceful Pines is the most heartfelt and fulfilling occupation she could have envisioned for herself.

“I truly think every part of my life, including the avenues that haven’t panned out, have lead me to where I am now…here at Peaceful Pines,” Drexler said.

Read on to hear her story.

Q: When was your business established, and what prompted you to start?

A: The business was established in 1997 by Gerry and Shirley Graveen. They put everything they had into starting Peaceful Pines back when cremation wasn’t common for pets. After consulting with Dr. Pope from Mosinee Veterinary Clinic, the couple worked hard to achieve their dreams, dismissed the skepticism of critics and focused on their goals as pet lovers, joining the International Association of Pet Cemeteries while learning from others in the business. Together, they built a thriving business that provides a crucial service for pets and pet lovers.

I worked full-time as a Certified Veterinary Technician from Dec 2012 (mostly with Metro Animal Hospital, 2 1/2 years with PAW Health Network and briefly with Kronenwetter Veterinary Care) until my transition to Peaceful Pines. I started helping Gerry and Shirley with occasional relief work several years ago, stargint with one day each week in early 2019, gradually expanding my hours until May 2020, when I became the full-time manager.

At some point around 2015-2016, the thought entered my mind… what is the plan for Peaceful Pines when Gerry and Shirley are ready to be done? The start of a potential dream or goal? They are both amazing people and role models (separately and together)… definitely people to look up to. Shirley and I were working together one afternoon in the winter of 2019-2020 when she approached me, relaying that she and Gerry were ready to retire. The conversation took me by surprise and my immediate thought was, “I’m not ready!”But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted the challenge and to provide people with a service like no other… to bring tribute to their loved ones and help them through the most difficult time a person can go through… the same service provided by Gerry and Shirley that I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing and learning.

I feel I have an advantage though coming from the Veterinary industry. I’ve experienced with many families of what happens before pets go to Peaceful Pines…during those moments of final goodbyes. Those experiences, along with losing my own beloved, helped me relate with and sympathize with clients going through the same thing. My beloved was a 14 1/2-year-old Siberian Husky named Alex who I lost on Sept. 30, 2020. He was with me for most of my adult life.

Q: How did you choose the name of your business? What are you trying to convey?

A: The property has pine trees all around, is secluded and very peaceful…perfect for the final resting place for people and pets. The name that Gerry and Shirley picked fits it perfectly.

Q: Tell us about the products and services you offer.

A: We offer pet cremation and burials, pet memorial items to pay tribute to beloved animals who have passed from urns, jewelry, granite markers, engraved stones and rocks, along with paw and nose impressions. Cremated people can be buried with their cremated pets in our Family Sanctuary.

Q: What makes your business unique? What sets you apart? 

A: We provide a service like no other. Gerry, Shirley, myself and the other members here are all pet lovers who have experienced the heartache of losing our own pets so know how difficult it is. It’s rewarding to help others during that time of need.

Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing?

A: I’m here and doing it! A business owner has to wear many different hats and I seem to be handling them all okay. I like that I’m learning more and more every day.

Q: How have you changed and evolved over time? What’s different now from when you first started?

A: A conversation I had with Gerry and Shirley focused on the need for providing the same dignified services that they’ve spent much of their life building, and I’m honored to follow in their footsteps. I haven’t changed anything in that regard. The only changes are making updates to improve day-to-day tasks so we’re more efficient, and technological improvements. Kevin and I did a lot of landscaping over the summer. A project I’ve been wanting to update for the past year is our business website, but that keeps getting pushed to the back burner! My goal is to make it easier for people to search and find the perfect memorials for their lost loved ones.

Q: What challenges have you had to overcome? Basically, if you had it to do all over again, would you do anything differently?

A: We had a meet and greet event on Sept. 11 to officially announce the new ownership and have a fundraiser for local area K9 officers. The planning for that had its struggles and was definitely overwhelming at times but I’m overall happy with how it all turned out. We raised $1,500 to support local K9s. I ran out of time to write a speech, so I winged it. By doing so I don’t recall thanking and giving acknowledgement to role models Dr. Linda Prososki (owner of Metro Animal Hospital), Dr. Carlo Riolo and Dr. Katie Niksich (owners of PAW Health Network) and Dr. Chris Bleifuss (owner of Kronenwetter Veterinary Care). I can’t thank them enough for their support and leadership.

Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Where do you see your business in five years? 10?

A: I want to keep providing the same dignified services but want to keep making improvements on those services and to make our days run more efficiently while keeping up with industry standards. 

Our pets are our family, so my goal is to continue helping families through those times of heartache with services that give them peace of mind and memorial items that help them pay tribute.

Connect with Peaceful Pines

Peaceful Pines Pet Memorials & Family Sanctuary

147988 Lois Lane – Mosinee

(715) 693-0202

Online at pppmemorials.com