Our History | Donohue Funeral Home | Upper Darby PA funeral home and cremation Newtown Square PA funeral home and cremation Downingtown PA funeral home and cremation Wayne PA funeral home and cremation West Chester PA funeral home and cremation Morton PA funeral home and cremation Upper Darby PA funeral home and cremation Newtown Square PA funeral home and cremation Downingtown PA funeral home and cremation
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All aspects relating to the funeral are handled by our family

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Our History

The Donohue Funeral Home is family-owned and has been in operation since 1898. We currently have six locations in Delaware and Chester County which have been staffed by five generations (three active) of the Donohue family and tenured associates who work diligently to ensure that your family is treated with the dignity and compassion you deserve. When you call, the phone is always answered by a member of the funeral home staff or a Donohue family member. Our staff is always professional in appearance and demeanor.


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THE STORY BEGINS IN WEST PHILADELPHIA

The very first Donohue Funeral Home was originally located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 54th and Market Streets. In 1938, the family members opened the present location at 8401 West Chester Pike (at the corner of Lynn Blvd.) in 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. 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. 

When the descendants of founders John P. Donohue and Nicholas C. Donohue discuss the business, it is with a great deal of pride – with not only a sense of history – but also the caring and integrity demonstrated for the past 120-plus years.

John A. Donohue and the late Raymond F. Donohue, the oldest brothers in the business at the time, used to talk about the evolution of the funeral business and some of its milestones. "I think the Irish always laid claim to this business because of their sense of humor," John A. said. "That may sound macabre, but the Irish accept death as an inevitability. You know, she's in a better place.” Raymond, deemed the unofficial family historian, proudly talked about the first motorized hearse in Philadelphia. "It amazed me how my grandfather was able to move around the city before he got this. In those days, burial was almost immediate because there was no way of preserving bodies. The best they could do was rest them on a slab of ice. My grandfather knew where every livery was in the city. When someone died, he sent someone ahead, usually one of his kids, to hire a horse and carriage to transport the body. Then he would take the trolley to the person's house, bringing along his professional equipment. He would dress the body and place into a casket, carry onto the hearse and would be taken to the church or cemetery."

Today, the Donohue Funeral Home is guided by the descendants as the fourth and fifth generation of brothers and cousins have entered the business including John J., Michael K., John R., Daniel F., James T. Donohue, Peter F. Huf and James L. Huf.

EXPANSION TO SERVE OUR NEIGHBORS BETTER

Five Donohue Funeral Homes have been opened since our beginnings 120 years ago. They are located in Upper Darby, Newtown Square, Westtown-West Chester, Downingtown, and in Wayne. Expansion didn’t stop there as the Donohue family decided to expand once again to meet the needs of a growing and aging population. 

In 2016, the Donohue family acquired additional funeral homes in Delaware and Chester County including the Knoetgen Funeral Home (the sixth location now called the Knoetgen-Donohue Funeral Home) serving the Springfield, Morton and Prospect Park areas of Delaware County. Other acquisitions that year were the Spencer T. Videon Funeral Home (operated from the Upper Darby location), The Rothermel-Videon Funeral Home (operated from the Newtown Square location) and the Ralston-Bredickas Funeral Home (operated from our Downingtown location).

THE FUNERAL SERVICE EVOLVES

The Donohue Funeral Home handles over 900 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.

James T. Donohue, who runs the Westtown Funeral Home adds that funerals 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.With the funeral home and cemetery industry increasingly dominated by national chains, the goal for the Donohue family is to remain family-owned and independent. Unlike other funeral homes, our services don’t stop after the burial. Donohue offers aftercare assistance and bereavement assistance as long as the family feels it’s needed.

A CREMATORY COMES TO UPPER DARBY

As time goes on, the public’s perception of burials changed as well. Cremations have become more prevalent and accepted in society. In 2012, the Donohue Family saw the need to build its own crematory. “At the time, funeral homes were doing their burials off-site. Families wanted peace of mind that their loved ones were cremated with the respect that they deserved,” said Michael K. Donohue. “Having our own on-site crematory gave the families the control they wanted and assured them the dignity and respect they wanted.”

THE ADVENT OF PRE-PLANNING

While pre-planning one’s funeral has been an option for decades, it’s now become the standard for families planning for the future. Pre-planning assures that one’s final wishes are carried out. 

"People can arrange their funeral and lock in the service that we will guarantee not to change in the future," John A. Donohue said. "It takes a lot of pressure off the survivors and people know they will get exactly what they wish."

The late Terry Donohue called 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.

In addition to pre-planning, those with young families should also consider life insurance policies. Through our Donohue Financial Services business, we offer term or whole life policies to protect your family and loved ones with financial security for college education, mortgage payments or to maintain your current lifestyle in case of an unexpected death. 

Whether you’re looking for coverage within a certain timeframe or lifelong protection, Donohue Financial Services works with you to identify the insurance coverage that best fits your needs. We have licensed insurance agents with over 50 years of experience.

A MONUMENTAL DECISION

When the loss of a loved one occurs, the last thing the family needs is to be rushed or pressured into making a decision regarding a monument or headstone. When you’re ready, we’ll help you choose an appropriate memorial with the assurance of quality craftsmanship, the finest design, and the best possible value. Each memorial is carefully handcrafted to reflect the uniqueness of the individual or family it commemorates. 

There are numerous options – without the price tag compared to other monument companies and cemeteries.

FUNERALS OF THE FUTURE

Today, trends in funerals continue to evolve as does the clientele that Donohue serves. We’re no longer just an “Irish Catholic” funeral home. As we’ve grown, we now service all faiths. As Life Celebration® specialists, we’re here to commemorate the life of your loved one through personalized videos and memorial services.

From green burials, themed funerals, participatory funerals to live streaming of funerals, the way we handle death in this country continues to evolve. And our services don’t stop after the burial. Donohue offers aftercare assistance and bereavement assistance. For the past 120 years, families in suburban Philadelphia have depended on the Donohue Funeral Home. We look forward to serving your friends and family for another 120 years.  

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