Elliot H. DeVoe (1890-1968) of Allenwood, NJ, joined David B. Laubach's undertaker directorship in 1915. Married in 1914, he and his bride moved into the lower half of 148 West Washington, (across from North Wandling Avenue) while David B. Laubach lived in the other half (he moved from Riegelsville). Laubach's practice was well established by this time; there are extensive records from 1897.
They worked together in the rear of the property, in a garage, which still stands. They built their own caskets, but bought and installed the linings. At that period, they also kept a stock of "funeral furnishings" to take to the home of the deceased and set up viewings. These furnishings included drapes, curtains, vases, kneelers and chairs. They hosted a large percent of the Methodist and Catholic populations.
In 1923, Elliot bought the home at 136 West Washington Avenue (built in 1893) from Doctor Smith, as his residence. However, he rented his parlor for viewing if the homes of the deceased were too small to accommodate the family gathering. Through the years, this custom grew. It became more common into the 1930's to have the viewing and funeral at the funeral home. This practice became more prominent when both the coffin industry and funeral parlors began to emerge.
In 1925 Elliot bought Charles H. Ford's funeral business for $5,000. One condition was established that Ford not practice undertaking in Washington for five years. DeVoe Funeral Service was the only funeral business in town until Paul Ford reopened in 1938. Meanwhile, in 1926 Elliot bought the brick building which still serves as the funeral home at 142 West Washington Avenue from Margaret Wandling. This structure dates back to about 1860. When purchased, the upper floor was divided into rental units. In 1928, it became Washington's first funeral home under the name DeVoe Funeral Service.
In 1946 Elliot's son, E. Thomas DeVoe, returned from service in World War II a hero. He served proudly as an aerial artillery spotter over Normandy during the invasion. He then attended and graduated from McCallister's School of Embalming in New York City. He joined the family business. In 1953, they added a brick addition to the funeral home to increase capacity by 125 more people. In 1953, DeVoe Funeral Service held the largest funeral in the U.S. The Matlock family, with 5 adults and 5 children in the same vehicle, was hit by a truck on Route 31. No one survived the accident. The funeral, served by DeVoe's, required a procession of seven hearses to the cemetary.
Elliot passed away in June of 1968. He was a compassionate man who quietly provided free funerals for those who could not afford them, particularly during the depression years.
Elliot was succeeded in the firm in 1968 by his son E. Thomas DeVoe. In 1990, grandson Mark joined DeVoe's upon his graduation from Mercer County College in Trenton, NJ. At 1:45am on November 20, 1974 a fire began that destroyed two garages and six vehicles (1 hearse, 1 Cadillac, and 4 station wagons for flowers, etc.), outdated funeral equipment, old records, and a dog in its kennel. A funeral was scheduled for the next morning, so they borrowed some vehicles from other companies and proceeded. For the next month they used a hunter green flower car, a bright gold hearse and a blue sedan, awaiting the insurance settlement.
In 1980, one of the largest funerals in state history was held for Phillip La Manaco of White Township at our firm. Trooper La Monaco was a member of the New Jersey State Patrol from the Hope barracks. He was shot and killed during a traffic stop on Route 80. His funeral drew officers from as far away as the Royal Canadian Moundies, Florida, and many points between. Governor Keane and Lieutenant Governor Byrne flew in by helicopter. There were so many in attendance that the viewing had to be moved to Washington's Assembly of God Church.
In 1990, E. Thomas DeVoe, another upstanding and compassionate man passed away. By 2015, DeVoes has handled more than 13,000 burials including those of the locally prominent - Sloans, Wright, Judge Bower, Vernon Oakes, Bry-Nildsen and Brian Heinrich - as well as charity funerals for the less fortunate.
In May of 2015, DeVoe Funeral Service quietly celebrated 100 years of service to the Warren County Community. The legacy of gentle men and compassionate service continues.