The O’Donnell name has a rich history in the funeral industry in Massachusetts dating all the way back to 1927. Through the years their firm has built more than just a name for themselves; they have built a legacy that is deeply rooted in their community.
With funeral homes serving the towns and cities of Salem, Danvers, Beverly, Peabody, Hamilton, Wenham, Topsfield, Boxford and Middleton, O’Donnell Funeral and Cremation Service have gained a reputation with generations of local families for conducting business with grace and dignity, and providing compassionate and caring services. Today, O’Donnell Funeral & Cremation Services include full coordination of the funeral or memorial service and burial, cremation services, death benefits coordination, merchandise procurement, embalming and grief services. As a family-owned business, O’Donnell Funeral and Cremation Services is a resource that families can trust to go the extra mile to make their trying process dignified, meaningful, and personalized.
“I am a fourth-generation funeral director. Third generation on my mother’s side and fourth generation on my father’s side. Both of my grandfathers were funeral directors and both sides of my family owned different funeral homes,” begins Anthony O’Donnell. “My great grandfather, Henry J. O’Donnell Sr., used to own women’s shoe stores and when they were bought out by a larger company, my great-grandfather retired at 40 years old. He was very involved with his church and the priest suggested to him one day that he should become an undertaker. So, in 1927 he converted his store front into what would later become one of the premier funeral businesses of the North Shore.”
After World War II, the funeral business moved from the storefront operation into a funeral home, when Henry J. O’Donnell Sr. was joined by his sons Henry Jr. and William. They purchased a home on the historic Salem Common, at 46 Washington Square, where the present Salem funeral home continues to conduct business. Henry Sr. passed away in 1960 and in 1968, Henry Jr. was joined in business by his son Thomas A. O’Donnell. When Henry Jr. passed away unexpectedly in 1970, Thomas, at 28 years old, became the owner of the O’Donnell Funeral Home on Washington Square, which he remodeled in 1972 to be one of the most prominent funeral homes on the North Shore. In the 1970’s, Tom was one of the first funeral directors in the United States to begin accepting pre-arranged funerals. In 1987, Tom acquired a second location, the Peterson-O’Donnell Funeral Home in Danvers and was ahead of his time, as a young Catholic man serving protestant communities. Currently, a renovation at an additional location on the Salem common is underway, which will be the latest addition to the O’Donnell legacy.
“When building the newest location, we tried to make it as bright and modern as we could with light colors and large windows. We also noticed over the years that families like to congregate in the hall or vestibule, so we made sure to design ours to be large and very open to accommodate for this. We also hired an interior designer to help with the finishing touches,” describes Anthony. “I also have a friend that has a wallpaper firm out of New York City called Carleton V, which is a world-famous fabric and wallpaper covering company, and he provided a lot of the wallpaper and decorations. The wallpaper we have is actually the same pattern scheme, as the Tory Burch stores on Madison Avenue in New York City and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Our newest location in Salem is beautiful; its unique style is a composite of modern and traditional design. It will be unveiled late Summer 2019. The new location is an ode to my father and the generations of O’Donnell’s before him. My family wanted to make a commitment to our town and our future, and this new venue does just that.”
When families choose the O’Donnell firm, they know their expectations will not only be met, but also exceeded. With many years of experience, the family-owned business knows just what it takes to provide services that leave a lasting impression.
“I love my business because every day my team and I are assisting people in their greatest time of need. We always try to put ourselves in the families’ shoes. We treat our families like they are our own. My dad, Tom O’Donnell, who was a funeral director for 40 years, died on March 2nd of this year. He had not pre-planned, assuming that I being more equipped than most would know what to do. But when the time came for me to start planning, it was harder than I ever imagined it would be and I quickly realized I couldn’t do it alone. Luckily, my amazing staff was able to create the tribute that my family wanted to honor my father—not a single detail was missed. The staff that works here is a huge part of why we are successful. They care deeply about each person that walks through our doors, and it shows. Being on the other side and having them serve me was honestly amazing, there are not words for how grateful I am,” Anthony says humbly.
The O’Donnell’s want families to leave feeling like the service was the best funeral they have ever been to, but more importantly they make it their goal to capture the essence of their families’ loved ones to make them feel like their loved ones are still with them, and are honored in a way they will forever be remembered.
“There are many ways to share memories and memorialize people. At our funeral home we try to use all of the senses – touch, sound, sight, smell, and even taste to do so,” adds Anthony.
When families choose O’Donnell Funeral Homes, the care doesn’t stop after the service concludes. The family owned firm takes aftercare very seriously. The staff follows up with phone calls, text messages and offers grief events to support families after the service.
“Four years ago at the Indiana Convention, I met Ellery Bowker with aftercare.com. At that time, we didn’t have a very extensive aftercare program. We made follow up phone calls, but Ellery shared with me what aftercare.com was doing and I realized how amazing it was and knew I wanted to utilize their service so I could show families just how much we were thinking of them. It was then that I had the realization that to be one of the leaders and innovators in our industry, we needed to more greatly prioritize aftercare. The best part about aftercare.com is that they manage the process, which is so important for us as funeral directors because we are already balancing a lot. Ellery makes it easy for us to show our families how much we care. We are all about the details here at O’Donnell and that’s why aftercare.com was a perfect fit,” states Anthony.
The O’Donnell team testifies that funeral services are as much about the people left behind as they are about the deceased. They know survivors can face overwhelming emotions in such a difficult time, and for that reason they work hard to be a trusted resource for families as they attempt to recompose normal life.
“Our pre-planning division is a big part of our success as well. We pride ourselves on our outreach program to educate the community on the importance of pre-planning. After what I just went through with my own father, now more than ever I urge people not to wait on the arrangement process. It’s a very emotional time, which makes it difficult to focus and make decisions. I tell my own story and use my personal experience to connect and get people to understand just how important pre-planning really is,” Anthony shares.
Looking forward to the future, Anthony is very excited to be in the funeral business. He says, “as we see technology advancing, each day we become better equipped to help families honor their loved ones in new and innovative ways” – and this is what he looks forward to the most.
“I think right now is such an exciting time to be in the funeral business. And that might sound funny to those who are outside of this industry,” he laughs. “But there are so many new and innovative ways to personalize services, make touch points with families, and be a better business operator and caregiver. A mentor of mine shared with me a long time ago that it is important to read everything you can about the funeral business. He told me to read every publication, every magazine, every online article. I really took that to heart, and by reading Funeral Business Advisor and other publications out there, it can open your eyes to all the great things that are going on in the industry so you can serve your families in the best way possible,” he adds.
Respectfully paying a loved one a final farewell is a difficult but meaningful process, and when families choose O’Donnell Funeral & Cremation, they know they will be taken care of and that no detail will be forgotten. The family-owned firm has been happily serving their community for many years and looks forward to continuing to strengthen their roots in Massachusetts. By going the extra mile before, during, and after each service, the O’Donnell legacy will surely continue for many generations to come. FBA