Well over 100 years ago, it was in Milwaukee’s Riverwest that friendly family-to-family funeral services became the Schramka family business trademark. As a result, the family today remains one of the oldest businesses of its kind in the entire Metropolitan Milwaukee area. In addition to funeral services, the Schramka’s personal community contributions will always be a huge portion of their legacy.
The precise date of when the business was founded by Bohemian-born Valentine Schramka has been lost to history. The earliest surviving paperwork dates to 1892, when Benjamin Harrison was in the White House. The paperwork includes a $40 bill of sale for a complete funeral at which five horse-drawn carriages with drivers were provided. There is also a business card for “under-taker and funeral director - V. Schramka,” which identifies a livery location at 9 Clarke St. and Valentine’s office and residence at 351 Brady St.
As a licensed funeral director, Valentine was an area pioneer. He handled arrangements for one of the first burials in Holy Cross Cemetery a century ago. In succeeding years, there were so many Schramka-supervised burials on the south side of the sizeable cemetery that a section of it came to be nicknamed “Schramka’s Gardens.”
Valentine died of tuberculosis in his 40s, and his son, Eugene H., took over the business. A larger facility was dictated by a post-WWI trend to move visitations from private homes to funeral homes. Thus, in 1928, Eugene H. began building the Schramka Funeral Home at what is now 612 E. Burleigh St. The business was on the first floor, while the Schramka family lived on the second.
By the late 1950s, a third generation had become active in the funeral business started some 60 years earlier by Valentine Schramka. His grandsons, Paul and Eugene J., had begun working in the family business. Kid brother, Tom, a decade younger than Paul, joined his dad and brothers in the Burleigh-based business (which eventually expanded to the north, south, and west to number eight locations).
In the 1980s, Eugene H. Schramka passed away. Yet by this time, a fourth generation had begun to work in the family firm. Today, Schramka Funeral Homes can be found in Cudahy, Menomonee Falls, northwest Milwaukee, St. Francis and Thiensville.