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By Michael Boyd Jr.
Ste. Genevieve HERALD
William McKinley was in his first term as the U.S. President, the short-lived Spanish-American War came and went in 100 days, launching the United States as a fledgling world power, the world’s first fatal automobile accident on a public highway was recorded, and funerals many times were held at homes.
Locally, John Basler started holding funeral services, thus Basler Funeral Home was established.
“We are in our 125th year of service, but I didn’t plan a big party or anything,” fourth-generation and current owner Eric Basler laughed.
Basler, also the current coroner of Ste. Genevieve County, said that with so many funeral homes, he is more surprised the business stayed within his family all these years than he was that it has been around throughout three centuries.
“I’m sure my dad and my grandfather would have never thought about 125 years,” Eric said. “It’s really hard in this day and age because so many funeral homes, it’s hard to keep it in a family or they just get bought out. Not that some funeral homes just go away, some do, but they just get bought out by other people or corporations and things. But we’ve stood true and it’s always been family owned. The demographics have obviously changed numerous times, the location has changed. But the name hasn’t changed.”
No it has not.
After John Basler started Basler Funeral Home in 1898, his son Leo “Pumkin” Basler Sr. took over in 1932 after John passed away.
After Pumkin passed away in 1971, Leo “Chipper” Basler Jr. took it over until his death in 2014.
Now Chipper’s son Eric Basler currently runs the business, and it appears that Eric’s son Luke Basler will take over someday.
All four have been the county coroners, by the way.
“I hope I get to retire, I’ve noticed a pattern,” Basler joked. “But, I’ve got Luke and he’s in mortuary school right now down at SIU-Carbondale, in his third year and he’s doing quite well. So it looks like, as long as everything works out, he’ll be the fifth generation. Luke will take it from there.”
Basler mentioned that while the name has stayed the same, numerous other things have changed.
Basler Funeral Home was yet to be built at the original location on Jefferson Street. That building is still there, however.
Prior to that, all funerals were performed at one’s home, including balming.
“Back when this first started happening 125 years ago, there was no building,” Basler said. “You went out and did everything in the homes. You embalmed in the homes. You laid people out in the homes. All that was done at the person’s residence.”
According to the BFN website, the first parlor on Jeffferson Street was added sometime in the 1930s for families to use, located one block over from Ste. Genevieve R-II Schools on Washington Street.
Chipper then added a larger parlor to help accommodate more bigger crowds in the late 1940s, then more space was added to the funeral home in 1979 for the same reason.
There also was a location in St. Mary.
But in 2007, Basler Funeral Home built its current building located on one of the town’s main drag of Missouri Highway 32/Fourth Street.
“We just outgrew the old place on Jefferson,” Basler said.
Basler said not much else has changed over time. People need to be comforted as they grieve and so on.
“The different types of services that we have now, I think it hasn’t really changed in 125 years,” Basler said. “A lot of it has, but the basics is people still want to honor their loved one’s lives by having services. That has never changed in 125 years. It is the fact that we still honor people’s lives today.”
But other things have changed a lot.
“Now the personalization is so easy,” Basler added. “I’m sure you were limited to what you had. Now if somebody wants a specific casket or anything, I can get it within 24 hours no problem. Before, you only had set caskets and these things because everything came in on train and it’s like this is all you had.
“So now people can personalize and make funerals more meaningful than they were years ago. It’s just a pretty neat advantage of having modern day technology and all that. Back then, you know, some might tell you it was word of mouth, you know, you just had to. Now it’s technology is the pushes out all the notifications and the obituaries and the pictures and people leaving their condolences online and, yeah, I mean, technology has changed drastically over the years.”
Four generations and counting and Basler Funeral Home still is serving residents.
But one thing did come as a surprise.
“Well, they called me Boz in college,” Basler joked. “But no nickname.”
Basler and his wife Julie have two children, Luke and Karlie.