Oswego’s heroic funeral director…

If you’re an old-time Oswegoan, you remember Everett McKeown and his personable wife, Evelyn, who was, for so many years, one of the secretaries in the office at Oswego High. Everett was a mild-mannered guy with never a bad word to say and everybody liked him. I remember him marching in the Memorial Day parades and doing other stuff as a member of the Oswego American Legion post. As it turns out, his World War II military experiences were remarkable.

The McKeowns bought the funeral home from the Thorsens in October 1938 and they moved to Oswego, living in the apartment above the funeral home. At that time, the funeral home was located in what we knew, as kids, as the Ken Bohn house at Van Buren and Madison. That historic old home was the living quarters part of the old Hebert wagon factory.

Anyway, the McKeowns operated a successful business, running both the funeral home and an ambulance service for the Oswego community. Then along came World War II and in June 1943, Everett was drafted and inducted into the U.S. Army. The question was what to do with the funeral home. They decided that Evelyn would continue to operate the funeral home while Everett went off to fight. As the Kendall County Record’s Oswego correspondent approvingly noted: “The decision is one that will face more and more wives as the war goes on and Mrs. McKeown is to be congratulated for ‘keeping the house in order’ while her husband is serving his country.”

Everett, with his experience in civilian life, became an Army medic, and got to Europe in time to participate in the invasion of Normandy. There, he was seriously wounded, his leg broken by the explosion of a mortar shell, and he was evacuated to a hospital in England to recover. Which he did, after which he was returned to duty–just in time to get caught up in the Battle of the Bulge. Thereby, he found himself involved in what were arguably two of the conflict’s two most pivotal battles.

Sergeant McKeown got his honorable discharge on Dec. 18, 1946 and headed back to his wife in Oswego. During his 23 months overseas, he earned four battle stars, an invasion arrowhead, a combat medic badge, and the purple heart. After arriving back home to join his wife after the war, they continued their successful business and contributed to the Baby Boom with their daughter, born in 1947. In September 1948, they bought the old Clinton mansion at Madison and Tyler streets and moved the funeral home business there, where its descendant doing business as McKeown-Dunn continues in business to this day.

Everett was a joiner and, like lots of those WWII vets, a doer. He was the first treasurer of the newly formed Oswego Community Unit District 308 when it was formed in 1962. He was active in the Lions Club and the Legion. He was Kendall County Coroner for many years and was one of the visionaries who served on the early Oswego Plan Commissions.

They were the kind of people we all too for granted when we were kids, but they were remarkable couple, Mr. and Mrs. McKeown…


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Filed under Illinois History, Kendall County, Nostalgia, Oswego, People in History

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