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All in the family: Lemont family has operated funeral home for more than a century

Published: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Dan Farnham - dfarnham@shawmedia.com)
Matt Markiewicz is the fourth generation to operate Markiewicz Funeral Home, which opened in Lemont in 1890.

LEMONT – Downtown Lemont has seen many of its family-owned businesses leave, but one that has stood the test of time is Markiewicz Funeral Home.

Matt Markiewicz, the fourth generation owner of the funeral home, said a majority of his business comes from current and former Lemont residents so maintaining a community presence has been key.

“I honestly think that living in the community and being involved in different things within organizations and events and things in the community definitely helps,” he said.

Funeral home founder Sam Markiewicz – who previously owned a tavern but did not like the hours or clientele – opened a funeral home and furniture store in 1890 on Main Street.

“Back in those days, furniture stores made their own furniture, which then in turn you made your own caskets,” Matt Markiewicz said.

Matt Markiewicz said he is not sure when the business stopped making furniture but knows it moved to its current location at 108 Illinois St. in 1948.

Matt Markiewicz said he was not always certain he wanted to continue in the family business, though he did show some early interest as a child.

“In first grade, I did a ‘what you want to be when you grow up’ story and I wanted to be a funeral director,” he said.

By the time Matt Markiewicz reached high school, working in funeral homes seemed less appealing and he focused on a career in business, he said.

“This business can be tough,” he said. “There’s a lot of hours and you never know what your schedule’s going to be.”

Matt Markiewicz attended Knox College for a year, playing basketball and looking at a career in accounting, before returning home.

While taking junior college classes, Matt’s Markiewicz father, Vic, gave him the opportunity to work at the funeral home. Matt Markiewicz eventually became a full-time employee before going to mortuary school and purchasing the business in 2006.

One of the changes that occurred around the time Matt Markiewicz took over the funeral home was the hiring of funeral director Robert Theis, Matt Markiewicz’s first nonfamily, full-time employee.

“It definitely feels like a good honor to be the first person they decided to keep for that long,” Theis said.

Theis, who also worked with Vic, said the Markiewicz family is down-to-earth and compassionate.

“They’ve never asked me to do anything they haven’t done themselves or wouldn’t be willing to do,” he said.

Matt Markiewicz said there are two qualities needed to be a funeral director: compassion and confidence.

“People come to you to have you help them through the situation,” he said. “You have to be confident and have to put forth that ability to have people feel comfortable with you to lead the process.”

Successfully leading a family through a funeral is something Matt Markiewicz enjoys.

“That’s one of the rewarding parts of the business, being able to help people through a difficult time,” he said.

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