When driving east on the Kennedy Expressway, it doesn’t take much to pass up Norridge without noticing it. A town of less than 15,000, Norridge was incorporated in 1948 and is almost completely surrounded by Chicago.
It is a town made up largely of European immigrants, first- and second-generation Italians and Polish, hard-working people who take care of their families and each other.
It might be easy to miss Norridge if you’re not looking for it, but there is no missing what has been happening on Lawrence Avenue just east of Cumberland Avenue for nearly 30 years.
When Cumberland Chapels Funeral Home opened its doors in August 1985, its owners did so with equal parts legacy and ground-floor innovation, risk and hope.
“The first call that came in was a request for one of the directors to rent another funeral home,” co-owner Tony Lupo recalls of the initial uncertainty surrounding the business. “We were able to laugh about it later, but at the time it was a pretty large, daunting operation we had attempted. Everything was on the line for us.”
Since that summer, Cumberland Chapels has hosted nearly 20,000 families, supporting the community and honoring the loved ones of the many families who have trusted them along the way.
For generations, the funeral business in Chicago always has been about fierce loyalty and mutual respect between the families who ran the business and the families who brought their grief and loss to them. It’s a unique business, one fraught with complications in today’s modern world of spread-out families, rapid technological advancements and the ever-present demand for convenience.
It’s nothing like buying a car or a TV. The customer doesn’t get to bring something tangible home. According to Anthony Lupo Jr., who learned well from his father’s 40-plus years of experience in funeral service, “We’ve always concentrated on giving something valuable to our families: a positive experience they can hold onto at a time when things seem to be slipping away.”
“Service. It’s all about serving, whether we’re talking about the living or the deceased. That’s what sets us apart. That’s what we’re built for here,” continues Louis Martino, who along with his cousin and fellow owner Peter Martino, carry on their family’s legacy as third-generation funeral directors.
“That’s why we continue to improve our facility year after year,” Peter says in reference to their newly remodeled lounge area. “We know that this building is a big part of the funeral experience. There’s a reason it’s always been referred to as a ‘home.’”
Service is something the owners always have stressed to members of their staff, who are much more like an extended family. Several have been a part of the Cumberland family since they began their careers as mortuary students 20 years ago, sharing weddings and births along the way.
The owners’ model for success comes from their strong belief in the value of family, their desire to protect the dignity of each family and to give back as much as they have received.
That’s why families who were once local come back again and again from the far reaches of the suburbs and city. They continue to trust in a business that some see as outdated because they know what they will receive when they walk through the doors of Cumberland Chapels: respect, honesty, and the experience and environment necessary to celebrate and mourn the greatest gift of all, life.
Cumberland Chapels Funeral Home
8300 W. Lawrence Ave.
Norridge, Ill. 60706