Being called out in the middle of the night, handling dead bodies and balancing periods of inactivity with extreme busyness is not for everybody.
But, Rob Dillon said being a funeral director is better than the options.
“I worked three days at Wheatland Tube,” the Masury man and Brookfield High School graduate said. “I wanted to be in air conditioning.”
Chelsey Santucci feels the same way. After watching his bricklayer father come home every day caked in grime, he decided on a different career path.
“I wanted to stay clean, drive a big car and help people,” said the Howland man, who owns Rossi and Santucci Funeral Home in Boardman and is a funeral director for Peter Rossi and Son Memorial Chapel, Warren, and Thompson-Filicky Funeral Home, Youngstown.
Dillon and Santucci, who are both in their 30s, have teamed up to open a new funeral home, Dillon and Santucci Funeral Home in Vienna. They renovated the former St. Thomas the Apostle Church after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown decided to build a new church building next door.
The renovation did not go smoothly. There were no bathrooms, they needed to tie into the city sanitary sewer service, and all plumbing and electrical wiring had to be upgraded, said Dillon, who was a member of the former St. Bernadette’s in Masury before it merged with St. Thomas. The window sizes were not standard so new windows had to be specially ordered, and the floor had to be leveled.
“I’d never do it again,” Dillon said of the 18-month project that ended up costing them $200,000.
But, they feel good about having preserved what they believe is an historic building, and one that has been a cornerstone of the community.
“This is truly a modern funeral home,” said Dillon, who also operates Sample-O’Donnell Funeral Home in Sharon.
Dillon and Santucci Funeral home, which opened in May, has open spaces; a room that can seat more than 100 – important as fewer and fewer funerals are held in churches; handicapped accessibility; zoned air conditioning; a new sound system; parking for about 200; and does not look like a church, as many assume it will, Dillon said.
“The people that have been here, everybody that comes through the door, they’re like, ‘Oh my word, this is amazing,’” Dillon said.
Although the building was a Catholic church, Dillon and Santucci offer services for all denominations, as well as cremation and green burials.
All of which gives Dillon another option to avoid mill work.
“I wouldn’t do good getting up every morning and going to a place and punching in,” he said.