Honoring an asset to the community

Delaware River City Corporation presents Outstanding Service Award to Joseph Slabinski III

Bridesburg proud: Joseph Slabinski III stands in front of his family funeral home business in Bridesburg. The business will celebrate 100 years of service to the community this month and will host a party for the neighborhood on Monday, May 29. PHOTO: JOSEPH SLABINSKI IV

By Lindsey Nolen

The Slabinski Funeral Home has provided an integral service to the community of Bridesburg for the past 100 years. To ensure the family business maintains its quality services, in addition to bettering the community as a whole, Joseph “Joe” Slabinski III has dedicated himself to helping others.
He was awarded the Outstanding Service Award by the Delaware River City Corporation on Thursday, May 18 for his service.
“It was truly a great honor to receive the award,” Slabinski said. “So much progress has been made that will truly benefit all the neighbors and our communities.”
The award is given out each year at the DRCC’s popular fundraiser, the Spring Fling, and is designed to honor a community member who has contributed his or her time and effort toward the North Delaware Riverfront Greenway project’s completion.
The project’s purpose is to renew, maintain and promote the Delaware riverfront, a portion of the urban, multi-state corridor, the East Coast Greenway.
“[Slabinski’s] Outstanding Service Award is for his vital role in community engagement and his steadfast commitment to advancing the mission of DRCC and the development of the North Delaware Riverfront Greenway,” said Tom Branigan, executive director at DRCC. “He was a standout choice because of his level of support and commitment.”
As one of the founding members of the Board of DRCC, Slabinski has been a strong supporter of the nonprofit and its mission to reconnect the adjacent communities to the Delaware River since 2004, according to Branigan. Furthermore, Slabinski’s active involvement in the Bridesburg Community Development Corporation, as well as the Bridesburg Business Association, has provided the organizations with a direct connection to the important greenway community, Branigan added.
“We are proud to honor [Slabinski] for his many years of guidance and support,” he said.
Robert A. Borski, Jr., chair of the DRCC’s board of directors, explained that Slabinski has been an integral player in seeing the Delaware Avenue extension project through to completion, and believes he will continue be an important voice from the community as the organization works toward extending the Greenway from Orthodox Street to the Frankford Boat Launch, as well as help the envisioned riverfront park in Bridesburg come closer to completion.
“In DRCC’s earliest days, [Slabinski] was generous enough to allow us to use his business for our board meetings, and has truly been with us from the beginning,” Borski said. “He is a staple of the Bridesburg community, and therefore, he plays a vital role in community engagement and introducing other businesses and community members to DRCC’s efforts and ideas. He is a bridge between DRCC and the Bridesburg community, which is instrumental in making sure the vision for the North Delaware Riverfront Greenway reflects the community’s wants and needs.”
While Slabinski’s work with the DRCC has certainly helped ascertain the community’s desires for a long-term, viable Greenway, his family’s work in providing funeral services remains renowned among the community.
Opened by his grandfather, Joseph Slabinski, or as the Polish mortician’s early business card read, Józef F. Slabiński, the funeral home’s philosophy has always been “to provide the highest standards in quality care and perform services in a sensitive manner.”
Continuing this service and tradition, Slabinski took over as the company’s third-generation funeral director in 1974, five years after his grandfather passed away.
Although operations under his leadership have become much different in part due to advances in technology, Slabinski still remembers his grandfather’s practices and the formal dresswear he wore during each day on the job.
“Not too many people knew my grandfather or ever met him because he’s been gone for quite awhile,” Slabinski said. “When he was in the heyday of his business, things were very different. They were very much for formal, and my grandfather always wore tailcoats, striped pants and a top hat.”
While reminiscing on his grandfather’s legacy, Slabinski noted that his grandfather’s hard work was much more physically demanding than the services of the funeral home today, due to funerals and embalmings taking place in the homes of the deceased. Additionally, his grandfather’s dedication, in combination with the lack of mobile technology, led the funeral home’s original founder to exemplify an extraordinary work ethic which Slabinski still seeks to replicate through his services today.
“As a kid before cell phones and beepers and all that, I remember loading up the car to go down the shore for the weekend, only for him to get a call on the phone and have us start unloading the car because someone needed his services,” Slabinski said. “With technology, I guess I’ve got it made today.”
Given the strong example put forth by both his grandfather and father, who passed away in 1960, Slabinski explained there was never anything he wanted to pursue other than funeral directing and to further his family’s company.
Having helped out when he could as a child and grown up in the business, Slabinski went on to obtain his mortuary license in 1972 from American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service in New York City.
Since then, his wife, Donna, became a licensed funeral director in 1997, and his daughter, Nicole, became licensed in 2003. Slabinski’s son, Joseph F. Slabinski IV, earned his license in 2006.
By obtaining their licenses and following in Joseph Slabinski Sr.’s footsteps, the funeral home, located at 2614 Orthodox St., has set itself up for a fourth generation of success. Thus, the family felt it appropriate in its 100th year to organize a celebration, which will be held on Memorial Day after the Bridesburg Memorial Day Parade.
“Hopefully we’ll be kicking around the community we love, Bridesburg, for a while longer,” Slabinski said. “We’re going to have a party, an outdoor carnival with a lot of surprises, entertainment and food. I know [Memorial Day] is a busy day for everyone, but please stop by [the funeral home] and help us celebrate.”