The DeVoe Funeral Home in Washington Borough celebrates a birthday this year. A really big one. The second oldest continuously family-run business in Warren County recently turned 100 years old.
Elliot Herbert DeVoe purchased the funeral home from D.B. Laubach on May 1, 1915. Eventually the business was passed on to Elliot’s son, Elliot Thomas “Tom” DeVoe, and in 1989, a third family generation took over with the passing of the baton to current owner (and Tom’s son) Mark DeVoe.
In all, the W. Washington Avenue funeral home has been in business an estimated 120 years. Mark, a lifelong resident of Washington, runs the funeral service business with his wife Susan.
“We’re still a mom and pop operation,” said Mark. “We haven’t been bought out by one of those big conglomerates that are buying up funeral homes everywhere.”
DeVoe notes that the family has coordinated over 13,000 funerals over the years, or as he wryly points out, “We’ve buried the town twice over.”
The business has certainly changed in many ways, though.
“There have been a lot of changes in the business,” said DeVoe. “There seems to be a lot of glitz and glamour type stuff. Too much of that. What happened to just honoring the dead like it once was.”
The biggest change in the industry however, according to Mark, is the high rate of cremations.
“That’s 60 percent of our business now,” he said. “The last year my father was doing funerals there were maybe one or two cremations. That’s not the case anymore.”
Except for an expansion many years ago and some remodeling, the current building at 136 W. Washington Avenue (Route 57) is pretty much the same as it once was even if the neighborhood has changed somewhat.
But the DeVoe reign probably won’t last for a fourth generation. None of DeVoe’s children have expressed an interest in taking over the business.
“It’s a tough business these days so I don’t know if I blame them,” said DeVoe.
In the meantime, though, DeVoe Funeral Services will continue to serve the community as it has for generations.
The longest running family business in Warren County is another funeral home, Cochran in Hackettstown.