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Your Tewksbury Today

People You Know - Joel Deputat, Tewksbury Funeral Home

Aug 19, 2015 05:57PM ● By Bill Gilman

People You Know - Joel Deputat

I have to admit, this was the most apprehensive I have ever been to conduct an interview.  I was nervous to walk into a funeral home.  I'm not sure if it was just the feeling that dead people seem to have their last life there so to speak, or the fact that all I can ever remember is the smell of the flowers that lingers and the cold temperature that always seems to accompany the inside of a funeral home.  I went to meet Joel Deputat at the Tewksbury Funeral Home a couple of weeks ago.  He is the funeral director and owner there.  Yup, it was exactly as I had thought.  Cold and smelled of flowers.  The minute I met Joel though, I forgot about all of that.  He is very monotone and has a way of engaging you in every word he says. 
Hollie Gonzalez - Joel, where did you grow up?
Joel Deputat - Right in this house, 975 Main Street.  This funeral home has always been my home.  I lived in Tewksbury all my life.  I graduated Tewksbury High School in 1972.
HG - What was it like to grow up inside a funeral home?
JD - Well, really I lived in the house upstairs.  To me and my family this was totally natural.  I mean sure other kids thought it was weird or creepy, but it was something that my parents did out of love and devotion for other people.  I grew up just like a normal kid.
HG - How did you get into the funeral home business?
JD - I was born into it.  My Father and Mother founded the Tewksbury Funeral Home in 1957.  I graduated Suffolk and have been in this business ever since.
HG - Tell me about the history of the Tewksbury Funeral Home?
JD -  It was a single family residence owned by the Marshall Family in 1956.  My father Walter and mother Gloria purchased it for $10,000 and converted it into a funeral home.  We opened in 1957.  I purchased the building from my parents in 1983 and have owned it since.
HG - What advice do you give to someone that may want to pursue the same career choice as you?
JD - You need to be pretty closely connected to your community.  Traditionally ownership of a funeral home usually transfers from father to son, but not always.  It is very difficult to open a funeral home.  You would be better off purchasing an existing funeral home rather than trying to build a new one.  Also, make sure that you go to school and get all the necessary diplomas and take the proper programs and courses.  And you need to make sure that you are prepared mentally for a job in this business.
HG - Mortician, Cremator, Undertaker, Counselor, Director, are those all positions that you hold here?
JD - No.  Funeral Directors in the state of Massachusetts are forbidden to own crematories.  Cemeteries are not allowed to run funerals in the state of Mass.  It is a very strict business.  As a funeral director I council people though their loss and provide them the options in arranging the final disposition of their loved one.  I am on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
HG - How do you keep your emotions together?
JD - I take a lot of vacations.  You have to be able to have a professional detachment.  It is just like other health care professionals.  You have to be able to keep your clients separate from your family. 
HG - Not to sound macabre, but what is it like when a death is tragic or unexpected?
JD - Those are the worst kind.  But it is a matter of peoples opinions.  I have to let them decide.  I show them all their options and help them through every step of the way.  There is a saying in this business.  "People don't know what they don't know".  Unexpected deaths are much harder for people to process than say the death of someone that has been in hospice for a while.
HG - Do you see life after death?
JD  - Absolutely as a Christian.  I have to keep my personal beliefs out of the equation.  Sometimes you get a lot of people that don't believe, and you have to understand where they are coming from too.
HG - Do you think the death of someone can be considered a beautiful experience?
JD - Christians believe that it can be a pleasant experience.  Some families people come in with requests that need to be examined.  I have to help them through it.  For example, publishing the mercy meal in the obituary.  It is really not a good idea to publish that because there are a lot of shady people in the world today and even in tough times, they will come for the free meal even if they don't know the person that passed.  I have to council them on what I have learned over the years.  Death in any religion can be beautiful it just depends on how you look at it.
HG - Do you have any affiliations with any other businesses here in town?
JD - The obvious affiliations are with Tewksbury Cemetery and Saint Mary's Cemetery and the churches here in town.  I am a member of the Tewksbury Elks, and have a great association with the Rotary and Lions clubs. 
HG - What can you remember as being the largest wake ever having here?
JD -  It was years ago, a race car driver by the name of Randall Whitcomb.  He died in a car accident while racing.  It was the largest wake we ever had and the largest that the town of Tewksbury had ever seen.  There were thousands of people.  Bigger than anything I can remember.  It still has rivaled wakes of any police chief or active fireman today.
HG - What in you opinion, does the Town of Tewksbury need to work on?
JD - There needs to be a shift in the attitude of how the town deals with businesses.  For example, with fees and licenses and regulations.  You could never open a funeral home in today's anti-business climate here in town.  Another huge thing the town needs to work on is the traffic situation.  It is only getting worse and the roads at the end of 495 and route 38 and at Pike Street and Main Street is horrible.  The road is so bad that you can almost lose control of your car.  They need to let the people of this community know a schedule of when we can expect this stuff to get fixed.
HG - What do you like about the town?
JD - The people.  I love going to Market Basket and seeing someone you know in every aisle.  It is the closeness of this community that makes it great.
HG - What are some of your hobbies?
JD - I travel.  I have been around the world.  I have been to Paris, Bermuda and Hawaii.  I have also been to Europe several times.  I enjoy looking at the age of things in other countries.  And Golf.  I love to golf.
Talking to Joel Deputat was different than I had expected.  I half expected to meet Lurch from the Addams Family when I got there.  But he was not.  He was kind and honest.  He was very sincere.  He knows his business inside and out and will help any family no matter what religion through this last rite, with the utmost respect and knowledge.  And for those who want to know...(Nicholas).. No, Tewksbury Funeral Home is not haunted.... but it still smells pleasantly of flowers.
Quick 5 - Joel Deputat
Favorite cereal - Doesn't eat cereal
Ride a bike or ride a horse  - Bicycle
Most popular show on your DVR  - All things History Channel
Fenway Park or Gillette Stadium - Fenway Park
Your dream job for a day - "I can't imagine having any other job."
(Hollie Gonzalez lives in Tewksbury with her husband and two children.  She is very passionate about her town.)
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