After World War II, American veterans returned home. Among those veterans was McGuinness Funeral Homes founder, James McGuinness. Upon his return home, he began to look for a way that he could continue to help his country and serve the members of his community. He returned to Woodbury, New Jersey, and decided to attend the Eckles School of Funeral Directing and Embalming, working tirelessly to finish his apprenticeship in Northern New Jersey, he became an embalmer and funeral director.
James, commonly known as Jim, first opened McGuinness Funeral Home on Hunter Street in Woodbury, New Jersey in 1951. With his wife, Marie Schultes McGuinness, they worked tirelessly to create a caring atmosphere of unique and compassionate memorial services and quickly made a name for themselves. The McGuinness children, Kathy and Bill, continued to run McGuinness Funeral Home, carrying on their parent’s vision and mission.
“Jim always made sure to put the families first. He was known for his service and made sure he went above and beyond for his families. He was the first funeral home in this area to introduce prayer cards and register books – he was kind of a pioneer in a way,” explains Richard Bonczak Funeral Director, Cremation Specialist & General Manager who has been with McGuinness Funeral Homes since 1998.
Today the McGuinness firm has two locations – Woodbury and Washington Township. In 2012, McGuiness Funeral Homes partnered with Foundation Partners and continues to carry on Jim and Marie’s legacy.
“I joined the firm in 1998 and worked for the McGuinness family as a privately owned funeral home prior to the development of their succession plan. After Jim passed away, the family announced that they were going to step away from the day to day operations and begin a partnership with Foundation Partners. The McGuinness’s did an amazing job in choosing who they were going to partner with because Foundation Partners has created an amazing relationship with us that gives us all the rights and privileges of running our locations the way we have historically, and they truly believe in investing in the people that work for them. They are a really wonderful group of funeral professionals to work with and I am thankful for our partnership,” explains Richard.
The current McGuinness philosophy of doing business is what sets them apart from their competition. It’s a deep seeded part of their history and it has been further developed since partnering with Foundation Partners.
“We want to share life by capturing, acknowledging, and celebrating a life well lived each and every time we get an opportunity to serve. A lot of times we say service begins at the time of that first call, but really it begins when families come in before they are in an at-need situation,” explains Richard.
McGuinness Funeral Homes are proactive about helping families planning services, which can really help alleviate much of the stress down the road. When a McGuinness funeral director meets with a family, they make it their goal to develop a service that is unique, personal, and truly celebrates the life of each person they serve.
“We ask open ended questions when meeting with families to really get a sense for the person’s life. We want to find out what their hobbies were or favorite music of course, but we also want understand their passions and get a complete idea of their life so when we put all of that together, we are creating an experience rather than an average service,” he adds.
McGuinness Funeral Homes care about their families before, during, and after the actual service. They are proactive about helping families plan before they are in an at-need situation, they continue to exceed client expectations time and time again, and they also make sure to stay in touch with families after the service as well. For a lot of funeral homes contact with families ends after the service, but not at McGuinness.
“We follow and connect with our families for a minimum of a year through outreach and aftercare programs. We also have a number of remembrance ceremonies that we host. Doing so fosters really nice and close relationships with not only the families that have called on us personally, but their friends as well. It helps us build relationships throughout the community, which is really important to us,” says Richard.
The New Jersey funeral home also offers the LifeSteps™ program which is five weeks of meetings hosted by an outreach coordinator at the funeral home. The goal of this program is to help families work through their grief after a funeral service. It guides them through this hard time and aims to help them adjust to a new normal while offing remembrance events throughout the year. A pet therapy animal is available during each of the workshops in the series and the workshop is free.
Both McGuinness locations offer ShareLife multi-sensory rooms. When people come together to honor their loved one, McGuinness aims to create a calming, stress-free atmosphere that tells the loved one’s unique journey and story to life by touching on multiple senses.
“When we meet with families and get to know the life of their loved one, we can create themes for the service that are extremely personalized. We have done anything from football themes to Margaritaville themes and with the multi-sensory rooms, these themes really come alive. We have a projection system, scents we can infuse into the room, items we can bring in – this isn’t your average chapel and chairs service. These services are much more uplifting and are going to be remembered,” he states.
The New Jersey funeral home is also known for all they do for the veterans in their community. The firm was founded by a veteran and they continue his legacy as they specialize in funeral and tribute care for a veteran and their family members.
“It is how we share our gratitude for all they’ve done for the place we all call home. The service that the brave men and women of our country provided is near and dear to the hearts of our staff. We have an Honor Coach that is a retired hearse that we took out of regular service and its wrapped in an American flag theme. This vehicle is reserved specifically for the use of those that have served our country and protected our freedoms. We get a flag from our local post office to be draped over the casket during the committal. We really value our relationships with all branches of the service and we always have two representatives from the branch in which each individual served present at the gravesite or funeral home to render taps and fold the flag for the family,” explains Richard.
Looking forward to the future, the firm is hoping to see some expanded growth in both locations. They are excited to serve more families, provide more unique services, and adapt to changing trends.
“The industry is trending very differently from when I entered nearly thirty years ago. When I was an intern coming out of college, funeral service was very traditional. Majority of the funerals I was involved with were burials, so it seemed like I was always going to a cemetery and always going to a church. However, over the course of time, that has changed. As a funeral home we need to be dynamic in adapting to trends and paying attention to how families truly want to be served,” he says.
The New Jersey firm has continued to impress their community since Jim first opened doors in 1951. They know how to adapt to changing trends, put families first, and provide unique and creative services that leave lasting impressions. At McGuinness, they know that a life celebration isn’t limited to the traditional arrangements of a funeral and the firm doesn’t let social expectations limit them. They work hard to provide a healthy atmosphere where families can share memories and connect with friends and family in remembrance. The firm’s ability to adapt as times change and focus on building strong relationships are just a few of the reasons their legacy will continue far into the future.
“It’s been a wonderful experience to be partnered with the firm. When you get to the bottom line of what makes us so great, it’s the people that I am fortunate to work with every day. We have a tremendous group of funeral directors, administrators, and part-time staff and at the end of the day, we are more than coworkers – we are family. I am honored to say that I get to spend every day working with this group of people,” concludes Richard. FBA