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Modell Funeral Home marks 61 years in business

Oct 31, 2016 10:25AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines

Frank Modelski, Sr. was a pharmacy student when he made a decision that changed his life. He heard that being a funeral director would be a good way to support his family, so he decided to give it a try. That was the first step in creating the multi-generational family business, Modell Funeral Home in Darien.

Modelski began working at Pizer Funeral Home to learn the business. He did well and eventually graduated from the Worsham College of Mortuary Science. On May 5, 1955, Modelski opened his own funeral home at 57th St. and Pulaski in Chicago. In an effort to attract clientele beyond the Polish community, he modified the name of his funeral home from ‘Modelski’ to ‘Modell.’ He and his wife, Estelle, had an apartment in the same building. Estelle, who was a seamstress, sewed up all the draperies for the business. To support his family, Modelski continued working at Pizer while building his own business.

Modelski’s son, Frank, Jr., followed his parents into the business. In 1983, Frank Jr. and his wife Fran founded Modell Funeral Home in Darien, working tirelessly to grow the funeral home into the business it is today. Frank Jr. and Fran now run Modell with their daughter, Christina and son-in-law, Andrew.

Frank Jr. and Fran’s daughter Chris grew up living above the Darien funeral home. She knew she wanted to be in this business from a very young age. “As a little girl, I always knew,” she says. “I’d come downstairs to watch everything being done.” Brunsen’s interest in the business showed itself in surprising ways. “When it was ‘dress-up day’ at school—‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’—I would wear a black suit and bring my briefcase with a death certificate,” she laughs.

Brunsen earned a marketing degree from Miami University of Ohio. She worked in marketing for three years before deciding that her childhood goal was a better fit. She graduated from Worsham College where she met her husband Andrew and joined Modell Funeral Homes as a licensed funeral director and embalmer. Andrew previously worked for another funeral home before joining the family business in 2012.

Chris and Andrew now live in the funeral home with their two boys, ages five and seven. Chris is proud to be the third generation continuing the family business, and she says there have been some exciting new changes in the last few years.

“We put on a 3,000 square foot addition to the funeral home back in 2014. Along with the expansion, we completely remodeled the funeral home. We will also have new signs installed at both the Cass Ave. and Plainfield Rd. entrances on Nov. 5.”

Chris says these changes are part of a new outlook people have about the funeral experience.

“Our reasoning behind freshening up and having a new logo and new facility is to keep in line with changing times. We want people to feel comfortable. People are finding that the funeral experience is more of a celebration of life than something to be sorrowful about,” Brunsen notes. “Granted, yes, you should be sad. But let’s celebrate the fact that this person was here on earth with us.”

Modell Funeral Home recently marked 61 years in business and now serves close to 400 families a year. But even after three generations in business, Chris says the lessons of her grandfather have not been forgotten.

“What we were taught from the beginning by our grandfather was to treat every person who comes through the door as family,” Brunsen says. “And that’s our motto. We treat everyone as family.”

Modell Funeral Home is located at 7710 S. Cass Ave., Darien. 630-852-3595, modelldarien.com

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