It is noteworthy to complete fifty years at any endeavor. It seems even a bit more remarkable to complete fifty years as a mortician. Tom Fashingbauer of Marengo, presently owner of McHenry County Burial and Cremation Society, has just reached this special milestone. He is reflecting back on ways he has been able to be of service in this profession.

It was April 27, 1964 that he suddenly thought, “Why don’t I become a mortician?” Just graduated from high school and working in a factory, he knew he wanted a career, not just a job. He looked up funeral homes in the phone book, called one and was invited to come over. There he met Donald Child. To Tom’s surprise Don put him to work that day, transporting a body and helping with an embalming. Tom gets teary eyed thinking of Don, Don’s partner Ken Breda, and others who have been his mentors and inspirations along the way.

After getting his required undergrad courses at Parkville College in Parkville, MO, Tom enrolled in the Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago (It is now in Wheeling) for the intensive 18 month course of studies that included everything from anatomy, to cosmetology to business management. While at Worsham he went after chances at every opportunity to help Childs and Breda at their funeral home. “It was a sort of pre-apprenticeship,” Tom remarked.

In January, 1968, Tom reported for duty in the Army and after basic training was deployed to Vietnam. As he arrived he learned that his base was one of the army’s collection points for the dead. Mentioning that he was a mortician, his orders were soon changed to work there. He spent his tour of duty processing the bodies of dead troops, documenting their effects and arranging for flights to transport the bodies to the actual military mortuary in Saigon where they were embalmed and prepared for transport to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland. He also filled in as an embalmer when needed. In fact, after his tour of duty was over he was asked to stay in Saigon for another year as a civilian doing mortuary work, which he decided to do. “You did your best and you did what you had to do,” Tom says of this difficult time in our history.

In 1971 he began a storied career as a mortician that continues to this day. For years at a stretch he owned funeral homes. At other times, he worked as a free-lancer for some of his many colleagues in the Chicagoland area. Now, he operates his burial and cremation society with the help of his wife, Carole. Tom reflected on how his trade has changed over his fifty years. “There’s a lot more interest in cremation now,” he remarked. He commented that now that the Catholic Church allows cremation he has had many questions from Catholics and offers a free brochure explaining the latest Catholic teaching.

Tom Fashingbauer’s goal is to serve the community by offering affordable services for those who want a full funeral with a casket or a cremation. He even provides free urns for cremations. “I will do this until I can’t anymore,” Tom states. “This is not a job to me. This is my calling.”

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