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Route 66 News

Longtime operator of Funks Grove Maple Sirup dies

Steve and Glaida Funk, 1993

Steve Funk, a longtime operator of Funks Grove Maple Sirup along Route 66 in Funks Grove, Illinois, died at age 90 at his home on June 21, according to an obituary in the Bloomington Pantagraph.

Funk served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and met his wife, Glaida, when he was stationed in Enid, Oklahoma. She survives. Here’s the most relevant part for Route 66 fans:

They wed in 1945, and settled into farming, sirup making at Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup, raising a family, and creating memories along Route 66 in the same woodlands where Steve’s pioneering ancestors put down roots in Illinois in 1824.

More from the Funks Grove Maple Sirup site:

In 1942, sirup production was halted because of the war — heavy taxes on sugar made the business unprofitable. But production resumed in 1943, and in 1947 Stephen Funk, son of Lawrence, and his wife, Glaida, took over the operation. In 1958, Stephen had the first underground cistern installed. Before this time, the sap had been emptied into a storage tank that was higher than the evaporator, thereby employing gravity to cause the sap to flow into the evaporator. They also began using oil to fuel the cooking process rather than wood. In 1960, Stephen experimented with tubing as a method for gathering sap. The tubing ran along the ground, and the Funks soon found that squirrels could chew up the lines faster than they could be repaired, so they decided to go back to using the traditional metal buckets.

In the early 1970s, construction began on Interstate 55—and it was routed to cut right through the Funks Grove timber. Fortunately, the Funks were able to petition to get it rerouted and save their precious timber. At first, the Funks were concerned that this new road would detract from one of their major sources of customers—people who decided on impulse to stop in while traveling Route 66—but once they erected a sign on the new interstate, new business started trickling in.

In the late 1970s, Stephen and his son Mike formed a partnership. In 1988, Stephen retired, and Mike and his wife, Debby, took over the business.

So, in essence, Steve Funk helped guide the longtime family business into the modern era.

Steve Funk left five children, 13 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. The obituary mentions Steve was a member of the Illinois Route 66 Association.

Calvert & Metzler Memorial Home in Normal, Illinois, was in charge of arrangements, and a private family memorial service is planned.

(Image of Steve and Glaida Funk at Funks Grove Maple Sirup, circa 1995)

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