In 1905, Frank R. Fitzgerald left the family farm in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to attend the Barnes School of Anatomy and Embalming. He later moved to Milwaukee, where he worked for eight years at Brett Funeral Home.
Frank moved to Rockford in 1914 to go into the funeral business with William Murphy, an alderman for the City of Rockford. Their first funeral home was located on West State Street near Didier Florist, Eytalis Shoes, and Salamone Meat market, all once thriving establishments on Rockford’s West side. Later Frank moved his business to Winnebago Street, across from St. Mary Catholic Church, and then to their third location on Jefferson Street.
Fitzgerald Funeral Home secured the government contract to take care of any deaths at Camp Grant, a training camp for World War I soldiers, which was located in Rockford. In 1918 a flu epidemic hit and hundreds of soldiers died. Fitzgerald Funeral Home was called on to be responsible to prepare the soldiers for their final trip home.
Frank and his wife, Mildred Hart-Fitzgerald had three children, Arlene Fitzgerald-Schrom, Janet Fitzgerald-Furseth, and Robert “Bob” Fitzgerald. Bob attended Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago, then, joined his father in the funeral business in 1949.
In 1959, the funeral home was moved from Jefferson Street to its present location at the northwest corner of Rockton Avenue and Riverside Boulevard. A traditional colonial design was selected for the building.
Frank Fitzgerald died in 1961 at the age of 73.
Tom Fitzgerald, son of Bob and Pat O’Connor-Fitzgerald, attended Loras College and graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in 1973, and then, joined his father in the family business.
A large chapel was added to the funeral home in 1982, in keeping with the expanding needs to better care for families.
Melinda Hagerman was hired as the Family Services/Aftercare Coordinator, making Fitzgerald’s the first Rockford funeral home to have an Aftercare program.
Melinda now serves as a Licensed Funeral Director. Melinda has helped form support groups for grieving families. Our annual Luminaria, which is held in November/December, offers support and suggestions for surviving the holidays. Fitzgerald’s also co-sponsors with SwedishAmerican Foundation, the Annual Walk to Remember, which is always held in the fall for people who have experienced the death of a child. Fitzgerald Funeral Home was featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal highlighting the rapid changes taking place within the death care industry.
Fitzgerald Funeral Home has also been the recipient of the National Funeral Director’s Pursuit of Excellence Award program in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2011, 2012. In 2012 they received the Pursuit of Excellence “Best of the Best” Award. The recipient of these distinguished awards are chosen, based on innovative programs the funeral home offers that has a positive impact on the families and communities they serve. Providing ongoing education and professional development opportunities for staff, offering outstanding programs and resources to bereaved families and maintaining an active level of involvement within the community are just some of the criteria required. Fitzgerald’s is the only Northern Illinois funeral home to have received these awards.
Bob Fitzgerald died in January of 1992, after 43 years in funeral service.
Ground was broken in 1996 for the Mulford Chapel. The Mulford Chapel was to be the first funeral home in Northern Illinois to have its own on-site crematory.
In 2002, Tom Fitzgerald became the first funeral director to be the recipient of the Lifesaving Partners award from the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Network for his advocacy of behalf of families for organ and tissue donors. He was also the 2006 Recipient of the Veritas Award of Muldoon/Boylan/St. Thomas Alumni Association and In 2011 he was greatly honored to be chosen second place “Funeral Director of the Year” by the “American Funeral Director” magazine.
On October 16, 2006, fire engulfed the Rockton Avenue location. The roof and trusses were ruined and there was extensive water and smoke damage to the entire building. The building has been beautifully rebuilt and restored.
Fitzgerald Funeral Home and Crematory was featured in 2007 as the Irish Family Business of the Year for the Ethnic Heritage Museum of Rockford.
In 2009, Tom’s son, Patrick Fitzgerald, CFSP, a licensed funeral director and embalmer joined the firm in a leadership position and continues in that capacity today.
In 2011, Delinda Grindle was brought on staff as Director of Grief Counseling. With her help we developed Soulprints, an aftercare program committed to provide comfort and care to family and friends following the death of someone loved. Our goal is to extend this care by companioning people mourning the loss of a loved one and to educate the community about the process of grief.
Fitzgerald Funeral Home and Crematory continues its tradition of serving families in the Rockford area with kindness and attention to the needs of every family we serve.