An Extraordinary Life: Funeral home owner was an artist by nature
BY DENISE M. BARAN-UNLAND Correspondent September 22, 2013 4:40PM
This photo of Bob Sayles appeared in the Herald-News nearly 20 years ago. He is shown with his first grandson, Nicholas, who started to "conduct" as they watched the Legion Band at Bicentennial Park. | File photo
Updated: October 24, 2013 6:14AM
Bob Sayles could “draw and paint” anything, said his wife and high school sweetheart, Sherry Sayles of Joliet.
Sayles, owner of Carlson Holmquist Sayles Funeral Home in Joliet, funneled that creativity into blessing the families who used his services.
“A lot of art goes into preparing a body because you want it to look good,” Sherry said. “He would spend hours, all day and all night, because he took a lot of pride in it. When people thought they should have a closed casket, he would say, ‘Let me see what I can do.’ Then they could show their loved one because of what Bob had done.”
In cases where a premature baby died, Bob Sayles, who also enjoyed woodworking and wood carving, would build a special casket and then embellish it with whatever symbols the parents desired.
“There are not a lot of caskets out there for that kind of need,” Sherry said, “so he would just do it so they would have something to put their very tiny baby in.”
Bob understood the 24/7 nature of his job. Many times, Sherry said, they canceled social engagements because Bob had received a call. He would work all day, come home to supper, go back to work, get two hours of sleep and then go back out again after getting yet another call.
Bob was just as creative at making time to be a father. When his sons, Michael A. Sayles of Joliet and Craig Sayles of Plainfield, were playing youth baseball, he’d watch part of the game during his lunch break while munching a hot dog.
When Bob’s sons were older, they learned the family business as well as their father’s commitment to working whenever necessary, even if it were 23 out of 24 hours in a day. Michael now oversees operations. Craig, a Joliet firefighter, occasionally assists his brother, Sherry said.
In later years, just as he had with his sons, Bob attended the activities and sporting events of his grandsons: Nicholas A. Sayles, Michael C. Sayles, Blake W. Sayles and Cade R. Sayles. He hand-built many gifts for them, such as trains, rocking horses, wagons, sleds and high chairs.
Bob and Sherry were Joliet Township High School sweethearts. Both participated in band. Bob played bassoon and Sherry played percussion. In 1979, the couple joined the Joliet Junior College Community Band under the direction of Jerry Lewis, retired chair of the school’s fine arts department.
Bob remained in the band until his death on July 13 at age 71. Sherry continues to play with the JJC Community Band.
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