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Rossi Funeral Home in Niles, Ohio

Ward — Thomas Museum
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503 Brown Street Niles, Ohio 44446

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1926 Funeral Home

1926 Funeral Home
Erie Street

Rossi Funeral Home
Story by: Kathleen Evanoff, Niles Times
Members of the Joseph Rossi family are celebrating the 80th year of the family owned business, which began in Niles in 1926 when Joseph Rossi Sr.came to Niles from Olyphant, PA. Joseph Sr. was born in 1903 and earned his mortuary license in 1924. He, along with his wife, Josephine, began the Joseph Rossi Funeral Home in a house on Erie Street.

“The original funeral home consisted only of an embalming room and a casket room.” Said Joseph Rossi Jr.

In those days, Joseph Rossi Jr. said, “we didn’t need viewing rooms because people held visitations in their own homes.”


1931 Funeral Home

1931 Funeral Home
Robbins Avenue

Joseph Rossi Sr. supplemented the family income by delivering milk door to door. When more space became necessary, the family moved to a larger house on Robbins Avenue in 1931, which still only contained the two rooms needed for the funeral home, as well as living space for the family.

Marie Vross remembers quite well when her father moved the Joseph Rossi Funeral Home from its first location on Erie Street . “I was five years old and we pushed the furniture in wagons up the alley from Erie Street to where we are now.” Marie said.

1941 Funeral Home

1941 Funeral Home
Robbins Avenue

By the early 1940s, it was evident that viewing rooms would be a necessity and the first addition was built in 1941.

Marie’s education in mortuary science was the beginning of the second generation of the Rossi family to go into the business. “I took the milk train to Cleveland to go to mortuary school,” she said. Marie, now retired as a funeral director and embalmer, explained that she was the only female in her class in the mortuary school in the 1940s. “They all took care of me like I was their sister,” she said of her male colleagues.

Marie graduated in 1948 and when Joseph Rossi Sr. died suddenly in 1953, Josephine and Marie kept the business operating along with Marie’s husband, George Vross.


1966 Funeral Home

1966 Funeral Home
Robbins Avenue

In 1966, the second addition was opened up to even more services for the community.

1980 Funeral Home

1980 Funeral Home
Robbins Avenue

Joseph Rossi Jr. was licensed as a funeral director in 1969, when he joined the family business and now his sons, Joseph III and Thomas Sr. are licensed funeral directors, receiving their training from their father’s alma mater, the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science.

Josephine Rossi passed away in 2002.

Marie’s husband, George, along with Joseph Rossi Jr.’s wife, Bonnie, continue to help with the funeral home and its operations. Also helping along the way were Marie’s children, John Vross and Sharon Bayus. As a family business, every member of the family helped at one time or another in the everyday operation.

Never changing its name since the first generation, the Joseph Rossi Funeral Home is located at 451 Robbins Avenue in Niles, Ohio.

When Krysten Civitelli of Connecticut saw a 1947 graduation photo from the Cleveland College of Mortuary Science at an antique store near her home, her sense of curiosity had to be satisfied.
Civitelli was browsing with her mother, when she saw the large, framed item for sale. It contained about 40 individual photos of the graduates, but one stood out. “I took a closer look and was surprised to see that there was one female student,” Civitelli said in a letter. “Her name said “M. Rossi.” I just kept coming back to the photo, wondering about who “M. Rossi” was. I decided to do a little investigating.” She also bought the photo.

Photo by William D. Lewis

On the Internet, she found an article about Marie Rossi Vross from Niles, the only woman in her mortuary-science class, and it contained a photo of her. Civitelli found a connection between Marie and the Joseph Rossi & Sons Funeral Home in Niles and wrote a letter. It told of the graduation photo and said “‘Thank you’ for putting such a smile on my face and a little ‘curiosity and adventure’ in my life.”

It led to a conversation with Georgiana Naoum, who explained that her mother, Marie Vross, now 92, retired in 2001 after a 50-plus year career as a funeral director but still lived in the house at the funeral home where she and her husband, George, now deceased, raised Georgiana and her siblings.

Civitelli, who is an author, said learning about Marie Vross confirmed her theory that Vross had been a pioneer as a female funeral director. “It was over the top of what I expected,” Civitelli said. “She is an amazing woman.” The letter also made Vross wonder something: How did that graduation photo end up in an antique store in Connecticut? Vross had a copy of the graduation photo at one time herself, but over the years it disappeared. Fortunately, Civitelli offered to send Vross hers. Vross said her fellow mortuary students came from “all over,” including the northeast United States, so she suspects that’s the reason it showed up in Connecticut.

“I was the only woman in that class,” Vross said of her year-long training in Cleveland a few years after graduating from high school. “There were a few before me.” For two years before her schooling she was an apprentice in the funeral home her father, Joseph Sr., started in the 1920s after arriving in Niles from the Scranton, Pa., area. “The first couple of months, I was kind of bashful, shy, and they treated me like their sister,” she told The Vindicator of her Cleveland training. “We had fun and joked around.”

When she was 21, she was old enough to take the test and get her mortuary license. She passed the test and continued working with her parents at the family funeral home. A little while after she and George got married in 1951, George also joined the business.

Naoum says at the time her mother became a funeral director, it was rare for a woman. “Back in the day, most women didn’t work, but she had a successful career. She was a trail blazer. Now women can do anything.” When Vross was asked whether she thought of herself as a pioneer, she just said, “Maybe it was because I was born into it,” referring to the family business. Vross said it seemed fairly natural to her to go into the funeral-home business.

Her main memory was of making a lot of friends. “They think of you as family when you do all those things for them,” she said of being a funeral director. “I got along with everybody.”

After her father died in 1953, “My mom and I did everything,” she said. Her younger brother, Joseph F. Rossi Jr., runs the business now.

Marie Rossi Vross from Niles was the only woman in her 1947 graduation photo from the Cleveland College of Mortuary Science. The large, framed item was for sale in a Connecticut shop and its buyer, Krysten Civitelli, looked into who the woman is — eventually sending the photo to Vross, now 92, who retired in 2001 after a 50-plus year career as a funeral director.

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