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Our History

The Hitzeman family is very proud of our history serving the community for over one hundred years. We invite you to read about our business and family history as written by Laura (Hitzeman) Tomecko when she was in eighth grade, in February 1997. Much has happened in the years since Laura completed her assignment; we are pleased to share our more recent milestones with you.

“According to the National Family Business Council, less than one-third of family businesses survive to the second generation and 70 percent are liquidated or sold when the founder retires or dies. Fourth-generation firms are a rarity– less than 1 percent of family businesses achieve this distinction.” Written by Laura Hitzeman, being the daughter of the fourth generation of a family run business.


Frederick Hitzeman started his funeral business at the corner of Keeler and 26th Street in Chicago. He turned his house into a chapel, living upstairs.  In those early years, they used horses and carriages for funerals, and wakes lasted three nights. Because they had to rely on horses, funerals could take all day.


Frederick began to expand his business by building a brick two story funeral parlor with the living arrangements upstairs. Charles R. Hitzeman married Erma Clausius in 1922. Erma maintained the building in the highest decor and introduced the high standards of dignified service we have today. 


Charles became a partner in the business. He lived above the chapels, while Frederick relocated to Oak Park. In the early days of the funeral business, wakes were held in people's homes. Norbert recalls that sometimes, to get the casket inside, windows had to be taken out and scaffolding set up because doors and hallways were too narrow. As this was quite a hassle, using a funeral parlor started to become more common.


Frederick loaned money to a real estate agent in La Grange Park, Illinois. In return, the agent gave Frederick a deed to a piece of property in Brookfield, Illinois, as collateral. At the time, there was a small building on the land, already zoned for business. The agent never repaid the loan, and Frederick, believing the property to be worthless because it was in Brookfield, a lesser-known area, discarded the deed. Charles noticed this and retrieved the deed from the trash. He then paid the back taxes, and as a result, the property now belonged to Charles R. Hitzeman. This property is where the current Hitzeman Funeral Home Building stands.


After serving in the Air Force during W.W.II, Norbert Hitzeman moved to Brookfield and attended Worsham College of Mortuary Science. Norbert spent the first five years of his career as an embalmer, as did Frederick and Charles. Norbert worked for his father and started to rent funeral homes in the Brookfield area. He became involved in the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce and Brookfield Lions Club. 


While big things were happening at the "26th Street Funeral Home," Norbert was working on expanding the business in Brookfield, Illinois. He started trying to get a building permit in 1955 but was rejected. He tried again in 1957, 1960, and 1961, facing protests at each attempt. Critics argued that the new Funeral Home would lower property values, create traffic problems, and encourage more businesses in the area. Finally, in April 1962, President Philip J. Hollinger, Jr. granted Norbert Hitzeman the permit to start building. Construction began immediately under Irv Hitzeman, Charles Hitzeman's brother. Irv promised to work fast because once the building had a roof, it would be hard to stop construction. Meanwhile, local homeowners were trying to get a permanent court order to stop further building.


On December 14, 1962, Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, of the Superior Court of Cook County, ruled that the village ordinance granting Norbert Hitzeman a zoning variation for a funeral home at 9439-47 31st Street was valid. The Grand Opening of the Hitzeman Funeral Home was held on Sunday, March 24, 1963.


Norbert purchased the property adjacent to the Funeral Home from Brookfield Federal to expand the parking lot to accommodate large services. Due to the changing business trends in Chicago, the “26th Street Funeral Home” was sold in 1976.


Hitzeman Funeral Home continued to expand with the building of the four car garage built by Pierson Contractors. Norbert purchased Hitzeman Funeral Home from his father in October of 1984.


Charles T. “Chuck” Hitzeman graduated from from Worsham School of Mortuary Science in Wheeling, Illinois. It was his second degree having attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison in December 2000 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. Chuck became the fifth generation of Hitzeman family funeral directors and the fifth generation of Hitzemans to hold the position of Vice President of the Brookfield/La Grange Lions Club.


On June 26, 2004, exactly one hundred years to the day from when founder Frederick Hitzeman assisted the first family with their funeral, the Hitzeman Funeral Home celebrated its 100th Anniversary with an open house. Over five hundred people attended the open house, learned more about the funeral home’s history, viewed displays including an antique hearse, and visited our senior fair.

In June of 2004, at age 25 Chuck Hitzeman was elected as President of the Brookfield/La Grange Lions Club and was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award by the Lions International. The internationally recognized award is the highest award that a Lion can receive. Charles R. Hitzeman, Chuck’s great grandfather, knew Melvin Jones and helped found the Lions Club in 1917 in Chicago. Norbert and Todd Hitzeman have also received this award.


After two years of construction the massive renovation project was complete. The transformation included refurnishing the entire building, providing a new lounge, expanded restrooms, a full selection room (for all merchandising needs), a new beautifully appointed chapel, a refinished parking lot, alley entrance and so much more.

Hitzemans' continued assisting families throughout the renovations with a pristine chapel available for family services throughout the construction process.

Read our full story written by Laura (Hitzeman) Tomecko in February 1997