L to R: Michael Walsh, Peter Walsh,
Eileen Walsh, Dan Campbell, Robert MacPhee
One of the best known funeral firms in the Maritime provinces, W.J. Dooley Funeral Service Ltd. of North Sydney, marked 1999 as the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the original "Dooley" Funeral Services and Home.
The Dooley Story is keenly interesting, covering advances the firm followed as it carried on business from its humble origin more than a century ago.
William J. Dooley was active for seventy-seven years as a licensed embalmer and funeral director. He could recall having personally known famed inventor Alexander Graham Bell and the noted Guglielmo Marconi, of wireless renown. Dooley also carried on a picture framing business. He had a photographic mind enabling him to quickly recall names of people, places and events.
The Dooley firm can claim a number of firsts in the profession:
- the first to use a horse drawn hearse in Cape Breton Island
- purchaser of the first electric embalming machine and the first automatic device for lowering caskets into Cape Breton graves.
Dooley's was the second funeral home establishment in Cape Breton to add a motorized funeral coach to it's facilities.
The son of an Irish immigrant, John J. Dooley founded the first funeral home business in North Sydney. Originally a carpenter by trace, John J. Dooley took on the responsibility of carrying out the additional duties of becoming the town's undertaker in the 1880's. This came at a time when the town's population was around eighteen hundred.
When a death occurred, a group of neighbours helped in the washing, dressing and casketing of the deceased prior to burial. John J. Dooley was one of the persons often called upon to build the wooden caskets, which were used. He decided after a period of time to relieve the community of this burden and went about the matter of establishing an undertaking and funeral services business.
A prominent citizen, active in numerous community affairs, he served as a town assessor, a member of town council and was an immigration official for several years. Dooley operated the funeral home for a long period of time prior to the business being taken over by son William J. Dooley.
William J. Dooley
Born in North Sydney in 1881, the eldest son in the six member family of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Dooley, William J. was the last surviving member of that family.
William J. first started work as a pretty young lad. With the original Dooley Funeral Services building located at a spot where the present local branch of the Royal Bank of Canada now stands on Commercial Street, he would carry out such work as lighting fires, getting coal and wood and cleaning up in the building prior to going on to St. Joseph's School.
As he grew older he took on other part time jobs, but always held a keen interest in his father's business and eventually, in the embalming certificate which is still proudly displayed in the office of the present W. J. Dooley Funeral Home at 107 Pleasant Street, North Sydney.
In 1902 he attended a seminar held in Saint John, New Brunswick , sponsored by the Walker Casket Company, the seminar featuring an address by New York Lecturer Professor Renouard and series of lectures on arterial embalming. Funeral directors at the largely attended seminar adopted the arterial embalming method and decided to form the Maritime Funeral Directors Association.
As his interest in the profession grew so did his business, which expanded from covering the North Sydney district to providing high caliber services to many other areas of Cape Breton Island. It was often busy and at times a hard life and a profession that takes a certain type of person to be able to live it. But as he often said: "I wouldn't have changed it for the world."
Mr. Dooley was among a number of funeral directors and embalmers who went to Halifax by train to help in the work required after the terrific loss of life in the Halifax Explosion of December, 1917. Two ships had collided in the harbour on that fateful morning. He also provided help when a mine disaster took place at New Waterford, Nova Scotia and thirty-eight miners lost their lives in an explosion.
It was in 1897 that William Dooley started working as a steady employee with his father. After finishing school in North Sydney, he attended St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish and for one year, in 1896, worked on the streetcars, which operated between the towns of North Sydney and Sydney Mines.
He feels privileged to have personally known as friends a number of noted persons: Honorable John A. MacDonald, a noted figure in the history and life of Canada; Alexander Graham Bell, of the first telephone fame; and the talented G. Marconi, who played such a role in the development of equipment that made it possible to transmit wireless messages across the seas and around the world.
William J. was present to see the historic "Silver Dart" airplane flight made at Baddeck, Nova Scotia. He was also there when the first railway train reached the North Sydney district and stopped at what was then "The Junction" on the I.C.R. line, the train enroute from Mulgrave to Sydney in 1890.
During his career, Dooley was honoured numerous times for his contribution and dedication for so many years to the funeral profession/ The Nova Scotia Licensed Embalmers and Funeral Directors Association presented him with a plaque in recognition of seventy years as a licensed embalmer. The special ceremony was held at his home.
Dooley is a past president of the Nova Scotia Association and of the former Maritime Association of Licensed Embalmers and Funeral Directors. He also served on the Nova Scotia Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors for a period of years. Hew as a strong supporter of many community causes and a charter member of the Knights of Columbus.
After a tragic fire in the mid 1950s, Dooley moved the location of the funeral home from Commercial Street to his own home on the corner of Blowers and Pleasant Streets and build a new home for himself and his wife, Bertha on the adjacent property.
On most fine days, even when he was well into his nineties, "Will" Dooley would walk over to the office of the funeral home to visit. He passed away December 1, 1979 at the age of ninety-eight years.
Joseph A. Walsh
Joseph Walsh is currently semi-retired from day-to-day operations of the funeral home as of this writing but, on most days, he visits to make sure everything is in order and to help in any way he can. He attends most of the funeral services, is one of the town's best-known citizens and is active in many phases of the community.
At native of North Sydney and a graduate of the Sydney Academy, Walsh returned home in 1958 after serving thirteen years with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was stationed overseas for two years during the Second World War and was a wireless air gunner, having served on twenty-one "ops" over enemy territory.
Walsh received his professional license in 1962 and joined the Dooley firm assuming operations from his father-in-law, William J. Dooley, in 1969.
He is a graduate of St. Jospeh's School in North Sydney and Sydney Academy in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
For some years he was active in the local Kinsmen Club, of which he is a past president and a past president of the K-40 Club, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion and Knights of Columbus. He was an active member of the Board of Health of the North Sydney Recreation Commission and involved for many years with the Holy Cross Cemetery Care Company. He is also a past president of the Seaview Curling Club and member of the Seaview Golf Club. He has also given much time and effort to various community programs and events.
His wife is the former Virginia Dooley. They have three daughters, Maureen, Kathleen and Laura and two sons, William J. (Bill) Walsh and Peter V. Walsh.
Peter V. Walsh
Funeral Directors Peter Walsh and Dan Campbell
Peter Vincent Walsh, the second son of Joseph A. Walsh and grandson of William J. Dooley started working with his father following graduation from St. Joseph's High School in North Sydney in 1973. He received his professional license in 1976 and continued to work for his father until taking over operation of the firm in 1984.
Peter has served in a number of community and professional activities: as a member of the Kinsmen Club of North Sydney, the North Sydney Business Improvement and District Commission and the Parish Council of St. Joseph's Church.
He has served as president of his professional association and as chairman of the Nova Scotia Board of Registration Embalmers and Funeral Directors. He is a member of the Seaview Golf Club and enjoys playing hockey during the winter months.
Peter and his wife Eileen (Dunn), began working full time at the funeral home in 2002. Peter and Eileen have three children, their oldest Matthew, resides in Calgary, Michael, has worked part time at the funeral home but is now living in Italy and their daughter Laura, who graduated from Dalhousie in May and is continuing her studies..
Other employees of the funeral home include Dan Campbell who started with the firm in 1981 and received his Nova Scotia licenses in 1985. Dan was born and raised in Brantford, Ontario and moved to Nova Scotia to enter the funeral business with his uncle Joseph Walsh. He is married to the former Shirley MacSween, and together they have three children Daniel, Lisa and Mark. Over the years Dan has volunteered in a number of community activities such as the Pre-Marriage program for engaged couples; former secretary and treasurer of the Seaview Curling Club; and member of the Seaview Golf Club. He is a member of St. Joseph Church, North Sydney and has served on committees within the parish.
Robert MacPhee, a graduate of the Funeral Service Program at NSCC, Kingstec Campus in Kentville, began working as an apprentice at the funeral home in 2006. He is now a licensed embalmer and is presently working toward becoming a licensed Funeral Director. He resides in North Sydney with his wife Susan and their daughter Lily.
The Dooley funeral home has undergone a number of renovations and additions over the years. An expansion which was completed in 1990, added two large visitation rooms that can be changed into a chapel setting to accommodate one hundred and twenty five persons. There are ramps and washrooms for the handicapped, a four-bay garage, large hallways, a large parking lot, along with upgrading and renovations to the existing facility. Since then other upgrades and renovations have been done to further enhance the exterior and interior appearance of the funeral home . All of these changes have been well received by the community.
From its early beginning, the W. J. Dooley Funeral Home has been witness to many changes that have taken place in its community as well as to society, and still it remains one of the oldest and most respected businesses in the town of North Sydney, providing dignified and caring services to the families it serves.