Funeral director perpetuates family legacy
When Mary Beth Rabe Menzler became the first licensed female funeral director in Donora in 1982, she became the third generation of her family affiliated with the 108-year-old James A. Rabe Funeral Home Inc.
The business was founded in 1905 by Menzler's grandfather, James A. Rabe Sr., and was originally located at Sixth Street and Thompson Avenue.
“It was where the St. Dominic Social Center has been housed for many years,” Menzler said. “My grandfather owned and operated a furniture store in the front of the building and the funeral home in the back.”
The elder Rabe, who received his state license as a funeral director in 1906, died in 1944 when Menzler's father, James A. Rabe Jr., was a junior at Donora High School. The business was run under a widow's license by Menzler's grandmother, Anna Eliza Gillingham Rabe, until her father became licensed. It was during this time that the business moved to Eighth Street and Thompson Avenue.
Mrs. Rabe continued to run the business at that site until her son returned from service with the Army's Grave's Registration Unit in Japan during the Korean War. He formed a partnership in 1963 with Richard E. Lawson and the business became the Lawson-Rabe Funeral Home.
Menzler's father, who also operated an ambulance service in Donora for many years, purchased the business in 1975 and moved his family and the funeral home to its present location at Seventh Street and Thompson Avenue. The business was incorporated in 1993.
Menzler, a 1978 graduate of Ringgold High School, attended California University of Pennsylvania and Community College of Allegheny County before graduating from the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science (PMIS) in 1982.
“JoAnn Pavlic and I were the first area women to graduate from the Mortuary Institute and become licensed funeral directors in the Mon Valley,” Menzler said. “My father tried to talk me out of choosing this career, mainly because he didn't think it was something for women. But I was determined to perpetuate the family legacy. Today, many women are owners/operators of funeral homes across the country.”
Pavlic, who was elected president of the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association in 2012, is one of those women and is at the helm of the Leonard M. Pavlic Funeral Homes Inc. in Bentleyville and Charleroi. The business was founded by her late father, for whom it is named.
The Pavlic funeral home in Charleroi is located at Third Street and Fallowfield Avenue, and was the site of the Francis C. Slezak Funeral Home for many years. Before Slezak purchased the property in 1943, it was the headquarters for a Pennsylvania State Police substation.
“My father did a lot of embalming work for Mr. Slezak,” Menzler said. “And he and my mother were good friends with Francis and his wife, Marie.”
James A. Rabe Jr. was born May 9, 1927, in Monessen and graduated from Donora High School in 1945. He graduated from the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science and became a licensed funeral director in 1949.
He served as a sergeant with the Army in Korkora, Japan.
Rabe was 78 when he died on Aug. 12, 2005. He is interred at Monongahela Cemetery.
— Ron Paglia
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Brownsville restaurant opens in historic home, pays homage to ‘Gone With the Wind’ plantation
- Allenport woman fatally shot outside residence
- Monessen man enjoys coaching youth football
- BVA approves new district policy manual
- Valley Art Club’s exhibit lures crowd to Monessen
- Paglia: Two Brooklyn Dodgers received rousing reception in visit to 1956 NAACP fete
- Perryopolis Golden Agers come to an end
- Monessen mayor: Bickering out, blight fight in