The Healy Chapel Funeral & Cremation Services has been serving the Aurora and Sugar Grove area communities for many years. We’re thankful to be an important part of this community and will continue our longstanding legacy of helping families honor their loved ones.
The Healy Chapel is one of the oldest funeral homes in the United States, and one of the few to be continuously owned and operated by the same family. Its beginnings date to the arrival of the Healy family to the Kendall County area in 1854, where they settled a farm along Rob Roy Creek in Bristol Township. William H. Healy was born the year before the family’s move and grew up on the farm. Tiring of the farming lifestyle, he apprenticed himself to A.L. Shaver of Yorkville to learn the science of embalming and the art of conducting funerals. In 1885, he opened his own funeral business in Yorkville.
By 1891, W.H. Healy had established a reputation in the area as a skillful and talented embalmer and a funeral director who paid close attention to every detail of the funeral services he conducted. Aurora had been quickly growing during this time and he decided to sell his Yorkville business and move to Aurora to open a combined furniture and undertaking business. In 1895, he sold his interest in the furniture business to concentrate on funeral directing. His younger brother, Arthur N. Healy, joined him to form the W.H. and A.N. Healy Undertaking Company in 1901. In 1906, Arthur’s son Paul joined the firm.
William H. Healy
Arthur N. Healy
Paul W. Healy
In this era, the preparation work of the body, the guest calling hours, and the funeral service all took place in the deceased’s home. The Healys saw that having a space dedicated to holding funeral ceremonies would allow for a more inclusive and meaningful farewell. With this in mind, they purchased the building at the current 120 W. Downer Place in Aurora in 1896. This building was the first funeral home in Kane County. In 1901, the business moved to the far end of the same block, to a larger space at the current 134 W. Downer Place. The Healys were among the first in the state to offer a dedicated space to conduct funeral ceremonies and the first in Aurora to operate a motorized hearse.
Further growth of the business led to its incorporation as The Healy Undertaking Company in 1919, and in 1920, Paul W. Healy was elected president of the company. During the 1920s, a talented architect from the Prairie School of style, George G. Elmslie, designed several buildings in downtown Aurora (Keystone Building, 1923; Old Second National Bank, 1924; German-American Bank, 1925; Graham Building, 1926). Paul was on the board of directors at the Old Second National Bank at the time and had been engaged in the commissioning of Elmslie for that building. The growth of the funeral business necessitated a larger space, so he decided that the time had come to have a building constructed that would be beautiful and comforting, but also a modern, spacious workspace with the most up to date equipment. He commissioned Elmslie to design what would be called the Healy Chapel in 1927, and it was completed the following year. This was one of the first buildings in the United States to be designed and constructed as a funeral home.
The new building opened in August 1928 to much acclaim among those in the funeral profession. It is constructed in a high-quality Roman brick on all four sides and embellished with terracotta and glazed tiles forming unique designs from the architect. In typical Prairie School architecture style, there is heavy emphasis on horizontal lines on the exterior ornamentation. On the interior this is represented by horizontal wood banding and changes in material usage at floor levels. The main chapel is finished in American black walnut, while the main and first floors are in oak. The third floor is finished in birch. The decorative work has been taken from the architect’s original designs, including the chairs on the speaker’s platform and the light fixtures. Specifically designed stained glass windows are used throughout the building, with three magnificent panels located in the main chapel. An expansion in 1950s added additional viewing rooms, filling in an open space that had been a courtyard. Otherwise the building is reflective of its original appearance. The Healy Chapel in Aurora was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1985.
In 1999, the Healy family decided to open an additional location to the west of Aurora to serve the growing town of Sugar Grove. This building was built in a modern style, with all of the facilities on one floor for accessibility.
Further generations carried have carried on the high standards of funeral service established by W.H. and A.N. Healy. The grandson of A.N. and son of Paul, Arthur N. “Mike” Healy, joined the firm in 1950. David W. Shepard, grandson of W.H. Healy, joined in 1953, followed by his son, David E. Shepard in 1974. Mike Healy’s sons William M. “Bill” Healy and Robert J. Healy joined the business in 1977 and 1984 respectively, marking the fourth generation of the Healy family to become funeral directors. Their fifth generation was established in 2005, when Bill’s son Paul W. Healy became a funeral director for the company.
Robert and Paul are the current members of the family involved with the business, and they remain engaged in all aspects of funeral care and the day to day operations of the company. It is by this, and in association with the largest and most experienced staff of funeral directors in the Fox Valley, that the Healy family is able to maintain the highest level of care and service.