In 1906, John J. Kassly, Sr. opened the Kassly Funeral Home in East St. Louis, Illinois. The funeral home was located at the corner of Ninth Street and Exchange Avenue. It began as a sideline to the livery business established by the Lithuanian immigrant and his wife, Agnes.
At the turn of the century, East St. Louis, located directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO, was a bustling river town. Many newly immigrated citizens came to town because of the abundance of jobs available at the local stockyards, packing houses, river traffic, and railroads. Mr. Kassly and his family had the privilege of serving many families from diverse ethnic cultures.
At the time, the accepted tradition was for the wake and funeral service to held at the home. But as many homes became smaller and for other reasons, laying out a family member at home became less practical. Firms such as Kassly Funeral Home began to build their own "homes for funerals" to prepare the bodies and offer more space for families to receive mourners.