The beginning of the F.O. Jolley Funeral Home is Sturgis, SD, came from a classified ad in the Sioux City Tribune in the spring of 1933. At that time, F.O. Jolley was employed by Larkin’s Funeral Home in Sioux City. He took his vacation early that year and came to Sturgis, talking with the people who had placed the ad and with the businessmen of Sturgis. The results of these contacts and conversations led him to believe he could succeed with such an operation in Sturgis.
During that same trip he leased the building now occupied by Dr. Bruce Cooper. The building was leaded for the early part of the summer of 1933, but due to unforeseeable problems, the tenants of the building were unable to vacate at the time, causing considerable delay. The F.O. Jolley Funeral Homed opened its doors of September 17, 1933.
While getting the facility ready for opening, the Jolley family stayed at Ryan’s Tourist Court across the bridge from Sturgis Park.
At the start, there was considerable discussion on the name—the “Sturgis Mortuary” and “Meade County Mortuary,” etc. were considered, as the name Jolley and the funeral business didn’t seem quite appropriate. Putting the initials F.O. in front of the name seemed to play down the jovial part of the name of the business. To the dismay of the whole Jolley family, the name attracted national attention in such columns as “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” “What’s in a Name,” a syndicated newspaper item, and numerous others. To this date, it is still going on as in the past three years it has appeared twice on the television show “Real People”
The first service that the funeral home directed was held at the St. Martin’s Church with burial in Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood. Being unfamiliar with the area, Mr. Jolley asked one of his new friends here, Art Kilker, to help him. He knew the terrain of the cemetery and its difficulties so he backed the hearse up the hill to the grave.
At the time the business was starting, the C.C.C. and the Fort Meade Cavalry let bids for the burial and F.O. Jolley was the successful bidder. During the winter of 1934 there was a severe pneumonia epidemic, plus the tragedy in the “Calcite” bus accident. To date, that was the largest mass funeral in Sturgis history. Reverend C.D. Erskine officiated after many hours with his duties with the Red Cross in this tragedy. Mr. Jolley, being an expert in the restorative art in accidents, gained considerable acclaim for public viewing of all seven fatalities and his professional handling of the epidemic and tragedy.
In 1935 Mr. Jolley opened a flower shop in Sturgis. The store at that time was located where the water company is now located.
Jolley was quite progressive in his interest of Sturgis. When he arrived he installed an ambulance service second to none, with trained attendants and equipment to handle extreme accidents. He also had the first woman assistant.
Mrs. Jolley, with her education as a registered nurse, was a big help to her husband. Even when Jolley was employed by other funeral homes, she aided his career. When they lived in Sioux City, it was known as “Little Chicago.” A gangland slaying took place and the victim was on the Most Wanted List. Mr. Jolley was in Nebraska on a service call and Mrs. Jolley aided the pathologists. The doctors didn’t find the bullet, but in her final preparation of the remains she discovered it. Calling Mr. Jolley she explained what had happened; he had her write down her entire procedure and testified in her place at the inquest.
The funeral home moved to its present location in 1940 and in 1948 R.J. Jolley was taken in as a partner, and the two sons of Marjorie and Bob took over in 1969.
There are several things that the funeral home under F.O. Jolley was first in. The first neon sign in Sturgis was installed at the funeral home. The color of the tubing was red and the first time it was lighted the neighbors on Davenport Street came over thinking the building was on fire. The sign was built in a small building in back of what is now Don’s Watch Shop at the cost of $50. Jolley, with the Chamber of Commerce, was instrumental in having an annual Easter egg hunt at the Fairgrounds. He was one of the original organizers of the Motor Classic. He and Alton Caldwell promoted the Sturgis Golf Club; at that time it was located over Sly Hill. He was instrumental in getting the city to construct a public tennis court on the corner of Third and Sherman.
Since its beginning, the funeral home has always taken pride in becoming involved in activities and promoting the Sturgis area.