John Sbarbaro of Sbarbaro & Company Undertakers, now
Sbarbaro Funeral Home, in Chicago strongly believed in diversification of his business interests. In addition to his services as funeral director, Sbarbaro also served as the assistant district attorney in Chicago. Persistent rumors were that he was also involved in illicit activities, a rumor that gained credibility when in 1928 his garage, a drop for bootleg booze, was bombed.
Located at 708 N. Wells, the modest funeral parlor established in 1885 provided services for some of the most lavish and expensive funerals in American history. The Dean O’Banion funeral in 1924 followed immediately on the heels of a funeral for Mike Merlo, head of the influential Unione Siciliana, an event that attracted an audience of more than 10,000 people. On display at the O’Banion funeral were more than $50,000 in flower arrangements. This was at a time when a new Ford could be purchased for $480. The services for these gangsters was so extravagant the Catholic diocese issued a statement of condemnation.
The assassination of O’Banion led Frankie Yale, the gang boss in Brooklyn, New York during this period who ran a funeral parlor as a legitimate front business, to begin making funeral plans of his own. On July 5, 1928, Yale was killed and his funeral was the largest and most lavish that has ever been held in Brooklyn. The gold trimmed hearse was followed by a procession of more than 250 automobiles and 38 flower cars on the five mile route to the cemetery that was guarded by 100 police officers. The church of St. Rosalie was purportedly surrounded by more than 15,000.
The man who set the stage for such lavish funerals was Frank Campbell. Born on July 4, 1872, in Illinois, he apprenticed as a casket maker before relocating to New York City where he worked in funeral parlors owned by a minister. He then opened his own funeral parlor on 23rd Street near Eighth Avenue. At this time the majority of viewings and funerals took place in the home of the deceased. Campbell was the first mortician in New York City to add a chapel to his funeral parlor, and the first to advertise funeral services in leading publications. He is also credited with being the first to replace horse drawn hearses in the city with customized motorized hearses and limousines for the family.
By 1915, Campbell was the largest undertaker in the city and he advertised that his goal was to “create a service so sublimely beautiful, in an atmosphere of such complete harmony, as to alleviate the sorrow of parting.” Then, in 1926, 31-year-old silent-film idol Rudolph Valentino died in New York City and Campbell’s funeral parlor was retained to handle the services and internment. Tens of thousands of fans stormed Campbell’s funeral parlor located at Broadway and 66th Street, and dozens were injured in the incident. One newspaper ran a huge banner headline: “75 HURT IN RUSH TO SEE VALENTINO.” The police were called in to restore order. It was later learned that Campbell had paid women to swoon and faint to enhance publicity.
In part two, more about the Campbell funeral home, and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Arizona Affordable Funeral Home and Crematory may not be famous for the hosting of celebrity funerals and it isn’t know for lavish extravaganzas. However, they are known for honesty, integrity, and respectively meeting the needs of the family.