2014 marked the 132nd anniversary of the founding of the Justen Brothers Furniture and Undertaking firm. It is the oldest business in McHenry, Illinois still operated by members of the original family. Today, the firm exists as Justen Funeral Home & Crematory, located at 3700 W. Charles J. Miller Road in McHenry.
The founders, Jacob and his brother, first moved to Main Street in 1882, which was then called West McHenry, and opened one of the first undertaking establishments in McHenry county. The partnership they formed lasted more than twelve years. When this partnership dissolved, Jacob located on the corner of Green and Elm streets. He had a small furniture store with his casket selection room on the second floor and the embalming room in the basement. He frequently did the embalming in the deceased’s home. The early horse drawn funeral coach came from the Chicago area, and the livery drivers were people from the monument store in town.
While Jacob attended to the funeral service, his oldest son, George, was in charge of removing the funeral equipment and moving the family’s furniture back in to place. Jacob’s two sons, George and Albert, joined the Jacob Justen and Sons Furniture and Funeral Business in the early 1900s. Jacob’s formal education in the business came from the Clark School of Embalming in 1892, and the Chicago College of Embalming in 1899. In 1915, Jacob’s son George attended the Worsham College, as did Albert later in the early 1920s. First and second generation Justens enjoyed a good living on the corner of Green and Elm streets.
The George R. Justen & Son Funeral Home, in its previous location on Elm Street, evolved from Jacob’s residence next to the furniture store, where extensive remodeling was done following Jacob’s death in 1940. George’s son, Robert A. Justen, graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science and joined George and Albert’s business in December 1947. George purchased Albert’s interest in 1948 and changed the name to George R. Justen and Son Funeral Home. George made the most of life, surviving the day-to-day struggles and his business grew stronger. George, Robert and their friend and employee, Kenneth K. Hamsher, saw the need for a funeral home in the Fox Lake area and in 1950, George and Kenneth opened the Justen-Hamsher Funeral Home. In 1956, George and Robert sold their interest to Kenneth and that funeral home still serves the Fox Lake community as the K.K. Hamsher Funeral Home.
George left his mark on the McHenry area with easy credit methods for anyone who needed his services. With a big heart and a great love for the community, he is remembered with affection by citizens of McHenry. The business expanded along with the town and in 1956, ground was broken for additional space. The addition included space for a new chapel, casket selection room, smoking room, and general storage space. George died in 1960, at which time Robert A. Justen was left with the furniture store and the funeral home. Robert quickly made many changes. He sold the ambulance service to the private sector, and the furniture store to his brother, Dennis Justen. The furniture store, a landmark in the community, was destroyed by fire in April 1969 and never reopened.
In 1975, Mark L. Justen and Krista Justen, Robert’s children, joined the business. Both received their mortuary science education at Worsham College in 1975 and 1976 respectively, making the fourth generation to serve the community. In 1978, the family suffered a tragic loss with the sudden death of Robert’s wife, Collette. Shortly after her mother’s death, Krista decided to leave the funeral industry and Robert left the operations and management to Mark.
When Mark took the helm of the business, he followed his family’s tradition of the next generation working to enhance what had gone before, while moving in an exciting new direction. In 1983, he gained approval for installation of the first crematory in McHenry County, which remains under his operation. In January, 1985, he purchased the Wonder Lake Funeral Home which had been established by John Freund in 1972. Justen’s Wonder Lake Funeral Home is on Hancock Drive on the east side of Wonder Lake.
Married to Nancy since 1986, they have two sons. The fifth generation is made up of Rob, a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and employed in the computer field in Dallas, TX, and Alex, a biological chemistry graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Nancy is a licensed funeral director in the State of Illinois and the State of Wisconsin, a Certified Pre-Planning Consultant, and a Certified Crematory Operator.
In 1989, Mark and Nancy purchased the Round Lake Funeral Home from the MacGillis family. Located on Cedar Lake Road and North Rosedale Court in Round Lake, Justen’s Round Lake Funeral Home has been extensively remodeled to provide a comfortable, soothing environment for families and visitors.
June of 2008 marked the opening of the newly constructed facility on Charles J. Miller Road. The George R. Justen & Son Funeral Home and Omega, Ltd. Crematory were relocated to the new facility on Charles J. Miller Road, and became known as Justen Funeral Home & Crematory.