Photos: Santangelo Funeral Home recently renovated its interior and parking space. Photos courtesy/Emily Santangelo.
Woodland Park Funeral Home Provides Three Generations of Community Service
By Anya Bochman
The death of a loved one is inarguably one of the most difficult yet sometimes inevitable events to be endured in life. While many cultures differ in their approaches to death and grief, the presence of professionals that take care of the family’s practical as well as emotional needs during this time is paramount.
Santangelo Funeral Home of Woodland Park perhaps typifies the establishment of the local funeral home and its importance to the community. Located at 635 McBride Ave., the home has been family-owned and operated for more than 50 years, and has seen three generations of funeral directors.
The home’s mission statement explains that its staff is instilled with the understanding of the value of compassionate service and attention to detail, while serving all faiths and backgrounds.
“We strive to provide each family with personalized and professional care when it is needed most,” according to the statement. “All services may be customized to individual needs in order to honor your loved ones in the most dignified and loving manner.”
The first location was opened in Lodi in 1951 by James Santangelo, Sr., a member of the United States Army Mortuary Grave Registration Unit during World War II. He was joined in 1952 by his brother, Guy Santangelo, and in 1963 a second facility was opened in Woodland Park, then known as West Paterson.
Guy’s son Chas Santangelo followed in his father’s footsteps and served as the next funeral director of Santangelo Funeral Home. In 2008, Chas’s wife Jodie and daughter Emily Santangelo received their Funeral Directors’ License, and are currently serving as the directors of the Woodland Park facility.
“Over the years the funeral industry has changed, and we have adapted to the changes and the families that we serve,” as stated on the website. “As the families continue to walk through our doors, we serve them in the way we would want to be treated.”
Explaining her personal desire to be a funeral director, Emily Santangelo also cited the family legacy.
“I wanted to continue the care, to be able to help families through difficult times, and also to stay true to our motto of being family-maintained,” Santangelo said.
Both Jodie and Emily Santangelo graduated from the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service in 2007. Prior to that, Jodie obtained a bachelor’s in elementary education and worked as a teacher in the West Paterson school system. She then graduated summa cum laude from Montclair State University with a degree in counseling, guidance and human services, eventually becoming certified as a New Jersey State Guidance Counselor. As a funeral director, her educational background is highly relevant to her role of providing emotional support to the recently bereaved.
Working side-by-side with her mother, Emily Santangelo is the third generation of funeral directors at Santangelo Funeral Home. She graduated with a bachelor’s from Drew University in 2006. Upon her graduation from the American Academy McAllister Institute, she was the recipient of the Dr. John McAllister Award for Outstanding Scholarship and the New York Funeral Directors’ Association Certificate of Merit; the latter is bestowed upon students who most exemplify the ideals of the funeral service profession.
After the passing of her father Charles, Emily Santangelo is honored to be following in his footsteps in providing professional compassion to all the families she serves.
“We know what it feels like to lose cherished family members,” she said. “We aim to console and counsel families in a loving and warm environment. We look forward to continuing our legacy of serving the community with dignity, honor and a commitment to excellence.”
Recently, the funeral home renovated its facilities; as a result, Santangelo’s has a newly decorated interior and improved parking space.
The home offers a range of services meant to accommodate all personal and spiritual preferences and types of funeral – whether religious, military or non-traditional. Specializing in individualized services that reflect each family’s desires, as well as traditional services for families of all backgrounds and denominations, the funeral home is also unique in offering on-site grief counseling and complimentary pre-arrangement conferences.
Santangelo, who has an educational background in psychology and describes her job as a multi-faceted process that ranges from the technical to emotional support of families – as well as being a part of the funeral service – stresses the ability of the funeral home to serve diverse needs.
“We are able to accommodate all religions and all backgrounds,” Santangelo said. “The care is personalized and specially tailored for everyone.”
In case a death occurs in the middle of the night or on a weekend, a member of the Santangelo family is available 24 hours a day and can be contacted immediately. Additionally, if the death happens away from the hometown of the deceased, the Santangelo family can arrange to have the remains transported home from anywhere in the world.
The funeral home also offers standard embalming services, with a comprehensive FAQ section on its website explaining the benefits as well as the fact that embalming is not required, and in fact forbidden in some religions. Although Santangelo demurred regarding going into details of some of the services, such as embalming, the funeral home’s website tastefully explains its purpose.
The cost of a funeral varies depending on the wishes of the family. To receive pricing information, one must contact the funeral home directly. Santangelo’s accepts Medicaid recipients, as well as insurance policies to help cover the funeral expenses.
The funeral directors at Santangelo Funeral Home provide obituary writing as part of their professional services, and are happy to work with families to personalize each tribute.
Additionally, Santangelo Funeral Home offers pre-planning options. While recognizing the difficulty of such planning, the home offers to help clients plan a final tribute, whether needed in the immediate or distant future.
The primary advantages of pre-arranging a funeral are to relieve the burden on loved ones in an already emotional time, and to ensure that the funeral is carried out according to one’s wishes, eliminating the task of family members’ having to second-guess.
Pre-paying for a funeral also reduces stress and the financial burden on loved ones after a death in the family. Santangelo Funeral Home can co-ordinate a payment plan that suits a client’s needs, from a single payment plan to monthly bank account withdrawals. Additionally, pre-payment protects the client and their family from inflation, and the growth is non-taxable. Depending on the region, if a funeral costs less than the amount put aside during pre-planning, the excess funds will be refunded back to the deceased’s beneficiaries.
Santangelo Funeral Home will take its clients through every phase of the funeral process. Traditionally, a burial service involves a visitation, followed by the service in a church or other place of worship. The casket is typically present at both of these events, and it is the family’s decision on whether to have the casket open or closed. The family also has the option of having the remains interred in an earth burial, or entombing them in a crypt inside a mausoleum in what is known as an “above ground burial.” Family or religious traditions are often a factor in choosing the type of burial. Additionally, decisions need to be made regarding whether the body is to be embalmed, what type of casket is needed, what cemetery to use and what information to inscribe on the gravestone.
Santangelo Funeral Home accommodates all of these needs, as well as the decision of using cremation. Cremation is an alternative to the burial process and it is chosen by many people because of religious beliefs or a desire to preserve the environment; sometimes, it will have been requested by the person who died. Cremation is also the less expensive alternative to a regular burial.
During cremation, the remains are placed in a container that is combustible, which is then put into a special furnace called a cremation chamber or a crematory.
The funeral home’s website is especially helpful to the recently bereaved, as it provides extensive information on the traditional aspects of burial, as well as resources for dealing with grief, writing obituaries, considering the legal aspect of wills, insurance policies, taxes and estates, a guide on “funeral etiquette,” and contact information for local florists, caterers and hotels. There is also a helpful step-by-step guide on what to do in the first 24 hours after a death occurs.
“We essentially provide personalized care with particular attention to detail,” said Santangelo of the meticulous and varied services offered by the funeral home.
Santangelo Funeral Home is a member of the Woodland Park Business Association, an organization that aims to help bridge local businesses with the community.