In 1913 Mr. Joseph E. Cornell, Sr. hung out his sign as a licensed funeral director at his home on Liberty Street in Danbury. It was at that point that Mr. & Mrs. Cornell established the Cornell Funeral Home. In the 1920's the Cornell's built their home and funeral home at 251 White Street adjoining their already thriving greenhouse. Take a tour of our history.
It was a successful combination and one that the couple would oversee for many years. Until the Cornell's established their business most funerals had been conducted at home. The Cornell's changed some family traditions, in some ways enlarging upon them, by offering a place not only for calling hours and the funeral service, complete with organ accompaniment but also for the lodging of out of town relatives as well.
Being in the funeral profession called upon many skills and asked the director to do many things: a scientist at embalming, an artist at preparing for viewing, a healer who meets with the grieving families, and a businessman who must oversee the day to day operations of a small business. For many years there were other duties as well, such as lining the caskets, a task Mrs. Cornell took on. Her primary role, though, was as a lady attendant working side by side with her husband until he died in 1949, and then continuing alongside her son, Joseph, Jr. and then her grandson, Roger E. Gavagan.
In the early 1930's the business was moved across the street to 247 White Street, where it is located today. In 1957 Roger Gavagan and his partner B. Robert Garavel, took over the business - renaming it "The Cornell Memorial Home." In 1963 the partners saw the need for services in the neighboring town of Brookfield, Connecticut and built the Brookfield Funeral Home on Federal Road. In 1964, Rodney L. Bourdeau, joined the firm as an apprentice.
The three continued to serve the Danbury and Brookfield area for almost four decades together. In 1996 Mr. Garavel retired and in 2002 Mr. Gavagan, after fifty years of dedicated service, retired. Upon Mr. Gavagan's retirement, his brother-in-law, Mr. Rodney L. Bourdeau became the owner and president of the Cornell Memorial Inc.
Tania Bourdeau Porta joined the firm in 2002 and became a fully licensed funeral director in 2010. As the current owner, Tania proudly carries on the tradition of serving families with the same respect and dignity with which the Cornell Memorial was established.
In the one hundred-plus years since the Cornell's founded the firm, many aspects of the profession have changed, but it still remains a family owned and operated firm with its basic mission "To serve as we would be served."