The History of Lesko & Polke Funeral Home
Polke Funeral Home- Established in 1890
An immigrant from Germany, Frank Wilhelm Polke was first known in his Bridgeport community for his talent of cabinet quality carpentry. Along with his son, Frank M. Polke, they started the Frank Polke and Son Furniture Company. It was the late 1800's, and local funeral directors were contracting them to build fine quality wood caskets. They soon recognized the growing need for funeral care within their community.
With the encouragement of their many friends, the Frank Polke and Son Undertakers was founded in 1890. The original location, next door to their home, was in the East End of Bridgeport. In 1911, the founder's daughter, Theresa Polke started with the firm. She was a bookkeeper, and was responsible for various tasks throughout her 56 years of service.
In keeping with the needs of their client families, they moved to a location in the South End of Bridgeport. In 1938, the business was moved again to the heart of the West End of Bridgeport. A former rectory, it was a grand old home with ample parking for visitors. In 1969, the funeral home was extensively expanded to better serve the facility needs.
Frank M. Polke's daughter, Rose Polke Stehle, would join the family business in the late 1930's as a secretary and funeral director. Two of her children, Frank S. Polke and Frances Stehle Dolny started with the firm in 1940. Rose's third child, Emil Stehle joined in 1958. The family's excellent reputation for funeral care spurred rapid business growth.
And in 1975, Frank M. Polke, the son of Frank S. Polke joined the business. The great, great grandson of the founder would later go on to own and operate the funeral home. There was a growing need for a new location because of neighborhood concerns. Having a real sense of compatibility with Kevin Lesko, Frank and Kevin worked together to created the Lesko & Polke Funeral Home. After the merger, all operations were centralized to a Fairfield Center location, and the West End facility was shut down.
Lesko Funeral Home- Established in 1909
As an immigrant from Hungary, the founder, John S. Lesko, first settled in the old West End of Bridgeport in 1895. Over the years, he would establish himself as an entrepreneur. He was the owner of several businesses, including a livery service, supplying horses, hearses, and hacks to many of the city's funeral directors. With the desire to help the people of his community during a time of loss, and with the help of his two sons Stephen and John, John started the Lesko Funeral Home in 1909. It was first located in a storefront in the center of a Hungarian section of the city commonly referred to as "Hunktown."
Up until this era, funerals were held in the home of the deceased. This would change, as would the demands on the funeral service providers. A new tradition, of using a funeral home to have both the wake and funeral, became the more appropriate manner to serve the many needs of families during these difficult times.
In 1935, the grandson of the founder, John T. Lesko, Sr. would relocate the business to a more suitable building and location, a beautifully restored home of a sea captain. With the addition of his son, John, T. Lesko, Jr., the fourth generation would expand the size of the facility.
During later years, the demographics of the funeral home's neighborhood changed, causing a negative impact on business. The families which had been traditionally served were moving to the suburbs, and the neighborhood was no longer a safe place.
Two great, great grandsons of the founder including Kevin M. Lesko joined the family business. They purchased the business from their father in 1991, and moved it to Fairfield Center in 1992. This would prove to be the right decision, as they would experience a healthy growth in business.
Several new funeral directors joined the firm, including Erika Cueto and William Krzynowek. And in 2003, then co-owner John Lesko retired from the funeral service to pursue other career interests. Kevin spent the next two years preparing his business for change and growth.
In February of 2005, Kevin and Frank M. Polke created a new funeral service, merging Lesko Funeral Home and Polke Funeral Home together. A surprising move for two century old rivals, it was a well-received by the people they both serve. Another exciting chapter in the new firms history would be written as construction was finished and the doors were opened for a new 11,000 square foot "Lesko & Polke Fairfield Center Funeral Home" in March 2008.