Grandfather Donohue also had to be a public-relations specialist. He belonged to 33 different organizations in the city. "People wanted a friend, someone they felt they could trust, to do the burying. So he had to meet a lot of people," Raymond said. "You have to remember, there was no real advertising."
The first Donohue Funeral Home was located on Market Street in Philadelphia. In 1938, the family members opened the present location at 8401 West Chester Pike (Corner Lynn Blvd.) Upper Darby, PA in what was their summer home. In 1968, they closed the Philadelphia location.
The Donohue family expanded the business to Chester County in 1974, when it purchased the Edward L. Townsend Funeral Home in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. The funeral home had been in operation for over 40 years before the Donohue family bought it. John and Terry said that the expansion to Chester County was a natural tendency for the family. A majority of the Donohue family was moving out to the Chester County suburbs ... and even their Delaware County clients started heading west. "Many families we served in Delaware County are now customers in Chester County," said Terry. The interesting thing has been the clientele. It's a mix of town versus rural ... a real mirroring image of Chester County, he said.
Five Funeral Homes have been opened since the first one opened 115 Years ago. They are located at 8401 West Chester Pike, Upper Darby, 3300 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, 1627 West Chester Pike, Westtown-West Chester, 43 West Lancaster Avenue, Downingtown, and 366 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, Pennsylvania.
The Donohue Funeral Home handles about 700 services a year, from the simplest funeral and burial to the most elaborate, custom-tailored services, cremation services with no type of funeral service or again with a custom-tailored service. There is great diversity in what services families choose for their families needs, especially with personalizing the services to fit the lifestyle and activities of one's life.
Cousin Terry Donohue, who runs the Westtown Funeral Home adds that funeral today are much more a celebration of life than they once were. People dress more casually, no longer sticking to traditional mourning colors of black and purple. Many families choose to make collages of pictures, use special music and poetry, golf clubs and other artifacts part of a one-of-a kind viewing and service.
At one time, there was just a simple casket, a service and a burial. Now, every detail can be customized, down to a special laser engraving on the outside of the casket to commemorate the deceased's special interests: a drawing of a fisherman and another of a golf club, a special design, or maybe for an activity or organization once belonged for examples.
The decor in funeral homes used to be dark. But the atmosphere has become lighter, airy, more home-like, a living room or family room setting, said John A.
A major part of the business is the pre-planned, pre-paid funeral. "People can arrange their funeral and lock in a price that we will guarantee not to change in the future," John A. said. "It takes a lot of pressure off the survivors and people know they will get exactly what they wish." Terry Donohue calls this "a more intelligent way to deal with the inevitable." Today, many nursing homes and extended care facilities require funeral planning before someone becomes a resident.
With the funeral home and cemetery industry increasingly dominated by national chains such as Service Corp. International and Carriage Inc. a particular challenge for the Donohue family is to remain family-owned and independent.