Starting in May, U.C. Davis & Sons Funeral Home will be under new ownership, but by a familiar face. U.C. Davis & Sons Funeral Home, 301 W. Washington St., Morris, is currently owned by Thomas Dzuryak, who has been with the funeral home in one capacity or another for 48 years.
“I’ll be 68 years old in May, and I’d like to relax, travel and who knows what,” he said. “It’s time. I’d rather go out while I’m still feeling good, where the families I’ve been privileged to work with are still saying I’m doing a good job, rather than overstaying my welcome.”
Dzuryak is not going away though, he is just letting someone else be in charge.
That person will be his long-time associate licensed funeral director and Grundy County Coroner John Callahan.
“I’ve been affiliated with Tom and the funeral home for 17 years now, and the opportunity has come for me to go from being an associate to being an owner,” said Callahan.
“The way I look at it, we are just going to reverse roles. He still wants to be involved, so I’m taking over ownership and he’ll become an associate of the funeral home.”
Callahan will officially be the owner May 1, the same date Dzuryak became the sole owner in 1987.
Dzuryak was hired at U.C. Davis for one year of service by the third generation of the Davis family, James M. Davis and W. Clark Davis, in 1965. W. Clark was the Grundy County Coroner at the time, said Dzuryak.
The Davis family was waiting for a family member to join the funeral home after mortuary school, but that family member ended up not going to mortuary school, so Dzuryak stayed on.
In 1975, he was offered the opportunity to become a third partner. By 1986, one of the Davis brothers wanted out, so Dzuryak and the other brother bought him out. Due to the last brother becoming ill,
Dzuryak took over completely in 1987.
By the early 1990s, Callahan joined as an associate, assisting in multiple capacities and running things when Dzuryak had to be away.
In addition to the Davis family history with the business, the building itself has its own history.
The structure started out as a three-story building in the 1860s. It has been a school and a hotel in the past, said Dzuryak. But in the 1920s, it was converted into a funeral home and the third level was removed.
Through the years, the rest of the block has been purchased to expand parking and a one-story addition was added, he said, as well as remodeling inside.
“The old girl still continues to work. We have been very blessed with the support of families in Morris and Grundy County,” said Dzuryak.
Callahan said people shouldn’t expect a whole lot of changes when he takes over, except he does plan to add his Callahan name to the title of the business.
His role as coroner will not change either.
“I will continue to be here in (the coroner’s office) and Tom and I will work things out with the flow of the office there,” said Callahan. “We will continue to provide compassionate and professional services to the community.”
This, he stressed, includes to those who have prepaid for service, which Callahan said, “will be honored to the fullest.”
Owning the funeral home will not pose conflict nor interfere with his work as coroner, said Callahan, just as it hasn’t since he has been working with U.C. Davis and other local funeral homes for the past 17 years as a licensed funeral director.
“It’s quite common throughout the state of Illinois that licensed funeral directors are also coroners,” he said.
Previous Grundy coroners have owned funeral homes while they were coroners, said Callahan. In each role, a code of ethics has to be followed.
He said his job as coroner is to respect the families’ wishes regardless of his affiliation with a funeral home, any office or any church.
“(Funeral homes) are such a personalized type of business, I would say 90 percent of the time or better families already know what funeral home they will choose because they base it on past experience or family affiliation,” said Callahan.
“The bottom line is the coroner’s office and the business are two separate entities. They are not co-managed in any way, shape, or form,” he added. “It’s all about serving the people and their families.”