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Al Capone's Funeral
(Photo courtesy of Mr. John Cieciel)

Al Capone died on Saturday January 25,1947 at approximately 7:30 pm.
The news began to circulate around the world.
Chicago American January 25,1947
(Mario Gomes collection).

After a massive stroke, his family had gathered together in the guest room of his villa and Al was given the last rites by Msgr Barry Williams (St. Patrick's Church,Miami). Minutes later Al passes away.

The room Al Capone died in. (by kind permission of Jeff Maycroft).
Now the task at hand was to decide when and where would the funeral take place along with the burial. Dr. Kenneth Phillips, who had taken care of Al in his syphillitic state conferred with the family and asked them if there was any possiblity of an autopsy being performed on Al's brain for medical purposes.The family unanimously denied the doctor this procedure.
Al's body was going to the grave in one piece. The body was sent to the Philbrick funeral home in Miami Beach, where after being embalmed, it was placed in the Philbrick Chapel for viewing.The Miami Beach funeral home was Florida's largest at the time.The first day of viewing on Sunday, Jan.26  Mae and Theresa did not attend as both had collapsed at the passing of Al from this world the previous evening.On the first day only the remainder of his family attended along with 35 others who managed to get clearance from the guards posted there.

W.L. Philbrick's home address, owner of Philbrick's Funeral home.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Capone was already dead when this headline came out.
Chicago American January 26,1947.
(Mario Gomes collection).

Al Capone death mask signed by W J.Helmer (It's a Helmer home made novelty)
(Mario Gomes collection)

The Funeral Home
Through the years Philbrick's had over 7 locations.
Al Capone's wake was held at the Philbrick's 1333 Dade Blvd location.
Philbrick's at 1333 Dade became under the possession of Walsh and Wood in 1950 and later on was named Gordon in the 60's. In the 70's and 80's it became the Newman Funeral home.
Today it is now a Auto garage repair shop. It still retains it's art deco shape and style.

The body was placed in a $2,000 massive bronze casket.This casket was a far cry from the extravagant funerals given his friends and enemies during his reign as crime lord in Chicago back in the 20's.The $15,000 caskets made back in the day were no longer available, but Al's family got him the best there was.

The Room
Al Capone's body occupied a prominent position in the Chapel drawing room.The room was decorated in gray pastel and carpeted in green and furnished with flowery patterned love seats.

The Body
Although still at his formidable weight at the time of his death, Al's face and body looked shrunken once placed in the massive bronze $2,000 casket. Capone's body was dressed in a new dark blue double breasted suit,white shirt, black and white striped tie, black silk socks and the classic gangster black and white shoes. No flowers were present the first day, but they arrived en masse the following day. On the second day, thousands of dollars worth of flowers in wreaths, blankets and baskets arrived. There was even a 7 foot cross made of flowers.
The funeral service was planned for the following wednesday Jan.29th at St. Patrick's Roman catholic church where his wife Mae and family regularly attended mass.

St. Patrick's Church.

The body was then again returned to the Philbrick Chapel where two bodyguards were stationed outside 24hrs.
There was rumor that employees at the funeral home took some photos of Al in his coffin.The remorse filled employees supposedly told Dr. Phillips who took the photos for safe keeping.

The Rumor and the Truth
I had heard since the beginning of this passion of mine back in 1987, that there were photos of Al Capone's funeral, photos of Al in his open casket. Over the years, it had become something akin to seeing the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot. Was it truth or just legend? Who in his right mind would have the guts to pull this off? After all, there was a guard on duty at the time of the wake.
In 2003, I had received info from someone stating they had two photos. I was skeptical, but yet interested, but as always nothing came of this, as nothing was shown to me, but in the email message I was finally told just how this event possibly came about. This was intriguing me and time just passed since the contact in 2003.

Capone funeral at Philbrick, flowers and casket in back corner.
(Mario Gomes collection).

The story
On January 25,1947, a couple of funeral home employees were discussing Al Capone's death and where his wake was being held. They were intrigued by the gangland figure who had just passed away at his luxurious Florida home. The exciting news in the funeral biz was that Philbrick's funeral home in Miami beach was the chosen location for Al's wake. There was much hype about this event as the Capone family tried to keep it out of the news and very quiet. One of the employees from Philbrick Funeral home came up with the idea to see Al Capone up close and take some photos. On the night of the 26 - 27th of January 1947, two employees, one of whom was living at the funeral home were already inside Philbrick's and if any questions were asked, they would simply use their positions as back up if intercepted by the guards. Once inside the viewing room, they took various photos of Al Capone in his open casket, with the casket closed and of the flower arrangements in the viewing room. They left excited that they had seen the famous Al Capone and yet must have felt the adrenaline rushing through their veins. This deed could have had them severely beaten to a pulp if the guards had found out. One for disrespecting Al's rest, but mostly for also making chumps out of the guards. Originally thought to be done by outsiders, the new theory of it being an inside job makes total sense. This eliminated the dangerous need for them to get past the guard at the entrance of the funeral home. Already inside, all they had to do was go downstairs, take the photos and then go back upstairs with no one the wiser.

Email sent to me back in January 2003. Nothing came of this. The Walsh and Wood info is erroneous. Walsh and Wood funeral home would only become reality in May 1950. At the time of Al Capone's 1947 funeral, Arthur Wood was working as funeral director/ manager for the Philbrick Funeral home Miami Beach location. He lived there with his family and it also lodged roomers who were mostly embalmers. Any one of these could have taken the photos, as they already had inside access.

Al Capone's closed casket.
(Mario Gomes collection).

The following days after the photo shoot, one of the employees felt guilt / fear of retribution and gave his photos and negatives to Capone family physician Dr. Kenneth Phillips. The photos were in the doctor's possession and before he died of cancer, he had bequeathed them to a person who had worked faithfully for him.
The other funeral employee who hatched the plan and took part in the photo shoot held on to his 9 photos. They recently resurfaced and I have verified them and can state unequivocally that this event did happen and that the photos are 100% genuine. Of course Al's unmistakable face and hands just nailed it from the get go. Just to be double sure, I even took still footage of Al Capone's casket from a 1947 newreel and they matched up perfectly with the ornate cornered casket and handles in the photos. This set of 9 photos are now in my  collection.
Left photo; screen shot of Capone funeral from newsreel.
Right photo; newly surfaced photo of Al Capone in his casket.
 Side by side comparison of handles, corner post of casket.You can see handles and base with particular rectangular plate match up.

Al Capone at rest.  One of my 9 funeral photos set taken by one of two funeral home employees.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Dr. Kenneth Phillips.  He once tried to sue Al Capone in 1930 for failure to pay him $2500 for services rendered. They later patched up things and Phillips went up to bat for Al in 1931, during his trial for failure to appear in before a Federal grand jury in March of 1929. He claimed illness of bronchial pneumonia, this when three policemen saw him  in good health at the Hialeah race track in January. Dr. Phillips was by his bedside when he died.

Al's last doctor. Dr. Kenneth Phillips
(Mario Gomes collection)

After the funeral, Ralph Capone was still waiting for the city's permit allowing him to transport Al's remains back to Chicago for burial.
On January 30th, 1947, Ralph received the permit from the Dade County (Florida) health authorities and at Philbrick's funeral home at apprximately 3:00 AM and the workers placed a decoy boxed casket in the Philbrick's "Cathedral sided" cadillac hearse. It was named as such for the arch like cathedral faux side windows made of solid wood. The decoy empty coffin was placed on a train to Chicago to ward off the press. Meanwhile, Ralph Capone accompanied the body in a station wagon along with two Rago drivers who took turns for the expected 48 hr drive to Chicago.
The body was to arrive there and given over to the caretakers at Rago's Chapel at 624 N. Western avenue.

Mrs. and Mr. Albert "Sonny "Capone, at Mt. Olivet for Al's funeral.

The body arrives on Feb.1,1947 where a service at Rago's chapel is given.Notables like Tony Accardo,Willie Heeney,Charlie and Rocco Fischetti (Capone cousins)and Rocco De Grazia were in attendance along with the Capone family.
Al's body was then transported to Mt. Olivet and placed in a vault while work crews worked hard on the frozen ground.It took them 3hrs to dig up Al's resting place alongside his dad and brother. A tent was erected above the burial site to shelter the mourners.The cold and wind did their best that day to keep many mourners away.

Al Capone's original empty grave at Mount Olivet.
Low lives stole the photos of Gabriele and Frank.
(Photo Courtesy of Author Jenny Floro Khalaf)

The body was removed from the vault on Feb 4,1947 and driven via hearse to the gravesite. The family gathered around along with Al's close pals from the outfit.Theresa Capone had urged Msgr. William J.Gorman to give last rites for burial. St. Columbanus church authorities had accepted, so Msgr Gorman a previous fire dept chaplain who knew the family, did gravesite prayers and last rites.

Al's remains carried in Mt Olivet cemetary.

The casket had a blanket of gardenias topped with a few orchids. Al's family consisting of his wife Mae, their only child Sonny and his wife, along with Al's sister Mafalda and brothers Ralph and Matt stood by while Theresa Al's mom became hysterical.

The weather was extremely cold that day. A tarpaulin was erected to keep the mourner from the cold winds and snooping press photographers. Police also sent their own to spy to find out which known gangsters were in attendance.

Al Capone's vault lid resting on two wood rollers. Al Capone's coffine was place in a vault in the ground and covered with this heavy ornate vault.
 (Photo supplied by Joe Walters, info courtesy of Mick McDonald ).

One of the Fischetti's gave a snarl to one of the photographers at the funeral. Only two undercover policemen were sent to look over the procession.Normally in the old days, many were sent to view faces of the underworld attending such services.(Identification purposes).The heavy vault top was placed over his casket with the words rest in peace. Ultimately, it would not be Al's final resting place. After Theresa's passing, all the Capone graves in Mt. Olivet (Salvatore, Gabriele and Alphonse) were dug up and shipped over to Mt. Carmel in Hillside.

Worker installing stone on main monument.

The family was fed up of gawkers and vandalism occurring in Mt. Olivet. More digustingly, photos of Gabriele and Salvatore (Frank) were ripped off the monument by some degenerate low life creeps.The same monument was knocked down several times. In sending the bodies to Mt. Carmel, the family left the Monument in Mt. Olivet thinking this would sidetrack future visitors from finding Mt. Carmel.

Worker cutting out grassy area to install headstone.

When there's a will, there's a way. People soon found where they were. Sometimes the flat gravestones were covered up with turf to conceal their presence. People visiting Al's grave from around the world began leaving souvenirs such as money, cigars, replica plastic guns, whiskey and beer bottles etc.....

(Courtesy Mr.Randy Miller)

These were signs of respect towards a legendary figure who made his way through history, whether it be good or bad.
People who had shunned Al during his tax trial, suddenly started coming out of the wood work to remember their acquaintances with the big fella. Now everyone wanted to claim their friendly association with the most famous gangster of all time.
January 29,1947.
(Mario Gomes collection).

January 25,1947 the death of Al Capone.

Newspaper announces Capone's Death.

Article on Al's passing.

New York Times headline. January 26th 1947

Cartoon on Al's passing.

Another cartoon.

In 2008, Ralph Capone Sr.'s (Al Capone's brother "Bottles") ashes were finally returned to the Capone family and interred at Mt. Carmel. He is now reunited with his mom, dad, brothers and sister, but more importantly with his son Ralph Jr.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters)

The Capone family monument today. Such a thing of beauty with the bushes removed.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters)

First Posted October 2009