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Al Capone's Death and Funeral

Al Capone's original empty grave at Mount Olivet.
(Photo Courtesy of Author Jenny Floro Khalaf)

This is verbatim what was recorded by Capone family doctor Kenneth Phillips 4 days before Al Capone had died.

January 21,1947.
 About 3:30 a.m. the wife was awakened by a loud and streterous type of breathing. He was able to be aroused and she tried to administer water but he strangled in his attempt to consume it. Within a few moments he underwent a clonic type of convulsion. This repeated itself in 5 to 10 minutes and then began to repeat at three to five minute intervals. He was first examined about 5 a.m., was in a convulsion above described, limbs were spastic, face was drawn pupils dilated and eyes and jaws were set. Moderate degree of cyanosis and the right face, left arm and leg were paralysed but the reflexes were hyperactive. Babinski's reflex was positive on the left and negative on the right. He was immediately given I.V. Demoral with Codeine. This relaxed him immediately This was followed with I.M. Sodium Luminal gr. 10. After relaxation the left limbs were spastic in type but paralysed and the reflexes began to decrease. Pupils remained equal and reacted to light. B.P. 114/78. Rate during convulsion 150, after relaxtion 84. Heart sounds were good. Within 1 1/2 hours he had begun to awaken and again became stimulated with Cheyenne - Stokes respiration. He was kept well relaxed during the next 24 hours with the above medication plus Morph. Sulfate, Hyoscyamus, Strychnine combination by hypo. O2 was given at regular intervals by mask. Saline solution retentions and special male nurses were placed on the case. Up to the above episode his health has been good. He has been active, complaining of no symptoms and the blood and spinal fluid have been unchanged. The only prewarning of the attack was thatthe wife recalled he was being rather melancholic and not inclined to talk as usual during the previous 24 hours. It would also appear that he had some telephone difficulty with some of the relatives.

The events on the 21st of January 1947, lead his family to gather together in the guest room of his villa at around 5 a.m. and Al was given the last rites by Msgr Barry Williams (St. Patrick's Church,Miami). Ironically, Al did not die and rallied for a couple more days. Al Capone passed away on Saturday January 25,1947 at 7:25 pm.

January 23,1947.
By the night of 1-22 he had aroused, become conscious and the limb and face paralysis are rapidly returning to normal. He is now beginning to complain of pain in both shoulders and there is a deep ulcer on the planter surface of the left foot at the base of the toes (bunion removed with knife). There are large skinned lateral surface right chest (LABORATORY FINDINGS) and arm apparently friction during convulsion. The Babinski's are now both positive. There is a deep congestion of the chest and he is complaining of dryness of the nose. Rate is increased to 32. Heart action is good but there are moist scattered rales in both posterior bases and middle areas. The impression is developing bronchial pneumonia. 90%  O2  under positive pressure 8 liters per minute 1/2 hr. every 4 hours and at the end of each session 50,000 U Sodium Penicillin by O2 inhalations. Also 500,000 U Sodium Penicillin in saline q 3 hours. Amm. Iod. Tr. Hyo. Syr. Ephed. Syr. Citric Acid expectorant. Parasulex nosedrops. Chloral Hydrate Gr. 20, Sodium Bromide gr. 30, in Syr. of Lemon. Elixir Nembutal prn. Sulfathiasole dressings to ulcer and to denuded areas. Frequent shifting of position. Soft liquid diet and sedation only as needed to control activity.

January 24,1947.
Considerable bronchial spasm has ensued. Adrenalin prn instituted. Considerable abdominal distention prn. In spite of practically continuous O2, Penicillin in the amount of 6,000,000 Units by injection and inhalation, heart support by Digitalis and Coramine the condition steadily grew worse. Dr. Arthur Logis called in consultation confirming both the pneumonia and failing heart.

January 25,1947.
He became sufficiently conscious to recognize attendants several times but at 7:25 p.m. this day with no prewarning whatsoever he expired. Death certificate signed; Primary cause Bronchial Pneumonia 48 hours contributing Apoplexy 4 days. Remains placed in the hands of Philbrick Funeral Homes where body remained in state until night of Jan. 29th, whereupon he was removed to Chicago by hearse.

January 25, 1947. Reporters questioning Ralph Capone (right near palm tree) outside 93 Palm Avenue on the state of his brother's health. Ralph responds that Al  has taken a turn for the worse and now has one chance in a thousand to live.  (Associated press photo)

January 25, 1947. This photo shows a curious passerby looking at the gate of the Capone Palm Island home. At the very moment this photo was taken, Al Capone was breathing his final breaths before dying. (Associated press photo)

The news began to circulate around the world.
Chicago American January 25,1947.
(Mario Gomes collection).

Al Capone's lifeless body was brought out of the bedroom through the corridor (door) and down these stairs to the waiting ambulance.
(Mario Gomes collection).

January 26, 1947. Reporters surrounding Al Capone's attending physcian Dr. Kenneth Phillips.
Capone had died the night before and they were pressing him for details on his succumbing illness and the upcoming funeral details.

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 and body for medical purposes. The family unanimously denied the doctor this procedure.

The Lincoln Star and The Wilkes Barre Record January 27, 1947.

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.

Philbrick's Dade Blvd. Funeral home in 1947.

Al Capone's wake was held at the Philbrick's 1333 Dade Blvd location.

Philbrick's at 1333 Dade changed various owners and became under the possession of Walsh and Wood in 1951, Gordon (1952) and later on was named Bennett (1956), then Newman/ Gordon in 1957. From 1961 thru the 1970's it became the Newman Funeral home. Before it became Walsh and Wood, it had briefly served as a place of worship.

Later becomes an auto garage repair shop. It still retains it's art deco shape and style.

The same building today.

The current owners knew a funeral once occupied their place of business, but had no idea that the infamous Al Capone was once laid out there.
Above photos the kind courtesy of Mr. Michael Comer.

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 local Florida newspapers made a mention that the funeral service was planned for the following wednesday Jan.29th at St. Patrick's Roman catholic church. This is where his wife Mae and family regularly attended mass and where Sonny was married.  Although he would eventually be buried in consecrated ground in Chicago, the mass celebration turned out to be only a rumor because Al Capone had been denied any form of requiem mass in a church.

St. Patrick's Church. The body never made it here. It was only a rumor.
(Mario Gomes collection)

While speculations in the newspapers about an eventual funeral were to soon be revealed, the body of Capone remained at the Philbrick Chapel where two bodyguards were stationed outside 24hrs.
There was another rumor that someone at the funeral home took some photos of Al in his coffin.

Interesting legend; 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 24hrs 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.

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 close friend 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, the two friends, 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 funeral employee positions as back up if intercepted by the guards. Late at night and 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 the viewing room excited that they had seen and photographed the famous Al Capone. They must have felt the adrenaline rushing through their veins. This deed could have had them severely beaten to a pulp or even killed 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, this theory of it being an inside job as told to me by the photographer's living relative now 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 wait until it was real late, 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.

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

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

Close up.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Al Capone at rest. My 9 funeral photo set taken by the photographer who hatched the insane plan.
(Mario Gomes collection)

I purchased these from the photographer's family. The other set with negatives sold at auction along with some of Al's letters to his doctor.
(Mario Gomes collection)

The following days after the photo shoot, one of the two employees began to feel guilt / fear of retribution by the Capone gang and talked the photographer into confessing and turning in the photos and negatives. He would certainly lose his job and career in the funeral business. The photographer relented and after first being promised secrecy they approached Capone family physician Dr. Kenneth Phillips. The photos were in the doctor's possession (safe) and before he died of cancer, he had bequeathed them to a person who had worked for him.

My set of original photographs of Al Capone in his casket came in this Kodak paper pouch. These were kept by the photographer who hatched the plan. He had given up the negatives and prints to Dr. Kenneth Phillips while secretly keeping a set for himself. I have purchased this set from the photographer's relative who explained the whole story. Note expiry date of the paper.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Al's casket being loaded into the hearse.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Unbeknownst to all, the photographer who hatched the plan and took part in the photo shoot made two sets of prints in his darkroom and secretly 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 newsreel and they matched up perfectly with the ornate cornered casket and handles in the photos. This set of 9 photos that got away 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.

Oh the Irony!  Dr. Kenneth Phillips 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 29th, 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 from Chicago's Rago's Chapel at 624 N. Western avenue. They took turns for the expected 48 hr drive to Chicago.

The body arrives in Chicago on Feb.1,1947. His body is directly transported to Mt. Olivet. and placed into the holding vault in Mt. Olivet following a phone call from Rago's Funeral Chapel.

The holding vault at Mt. Olivet Cemetary.

While Al's body rests in the vault, 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.
(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.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Mrs. and Mr. Albert "Sonny "Capone, at Mt. Olivet for Al's funeral.
 (Mario Gomes collection)

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. In the back ground, while the grave diggers serve as pallbearers, one of the Rago family members from the funeral home looks on.
(Mario Gomes collection)

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 ).

Grave diggers loading Al Capone's vault into the grave.
(Mario Gomes collection)

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 Ralph Jr. and 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.

The Capone family headstone in Mt. Olivet before Al Capone died.
(Photo courtesy of J. Walters)


 Salvatore (Frank) and Gabriele Capone.
(Photos courtesy of J. Walters)

Gabriele Capone died on November 14, 1920. His funeral was a pretty grand affair for someone who had been a simple retired barber. It even made the newspapers with his seven sons acting as pallbearers. Even James Vincenzo Capone was one of the pallbearers. As erroneously stated by most biographers and even a Capone relative that claimed he ran away at 16 years old never to be seen until the 1950's. Well there he was there in 1920. There were 10 carriages used to bring all the flowers that were sent for his funeral. One huge broken column flower motif was sent in by Frankie Yale. John Torrio's best friend Robert Vanella aka 'Roxy Vanille' now an undertaker and known as the mayor of James street, took care of all the funeral arrangements. His family ran the undertaking establishment on Madison street New York. Gabriele's body was originally interred at Calvery Cemetary. When Al Capone moved the family from Chicago to New York and after his brother frank died in 1924, Al had his dad dug up and transferred to Chicago in Mt. Olivet. That's why his photo is second on the stone instead of first.

The Standard Union November 17,1920. Note that James Vincenzo Capone is one of the pallbearers. This dispells the erroneous mention of him running away at 16 years old.

After a while, the family was fed up of gawkers and vandalism occurring in Mt. Olivet. The same monument was knocked down several times. There are assumptions some vandals may have stole the photos, but it could also be that family members had them removed from the stone when the the bodies of Al, Frank and Gabriele were exhumed to be reburied in the new family plot at Mount Carmel Cemetary in Hillside. In sending the bodies to Mt. Carmel, the family left the Monument in Mt. Olivet standing thinking this would sidetrack future visitors from finding them in Mt. Carmel.

Worker inspecting main monument at Mt. Carmel Cemetary.

June 1972, cemetary worker places sod to fill hole after Al Capone's headstone was stolen.

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 taking selfies, leaving souvenirs such as money, cigars, replica plastic guns, whiskey and beer bottles etc.....

(Courtesy Mr.Randy Miller)

Al Capone's flat marker stolen from Mt. Carmel Cemetary.
(Chicago Tribune June 10, 1972).

January 25,1947, the death of Al Capone.

Newspaper announces Capone's Death.

On upon hearing of Capone's death in 1947, the poverty stricken all remembered Al Capone.
(The Times January 27,1947).

Article on Al's passing.

New York Times headline. January 26th 1947

Cartoon on Al's passing.

Another cartoon.

At the news of Al's passing, there were signs of respect towards a legendary figure who made his name notorious in history.
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).

The Capone family monument today. A beautiful monument with the bushes removed.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters)

Earth and twigs from Al Capone's both graves at Mt. Olivet and Mt. Carmel.thanks to my friend Jenny Khalaf.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Al's grave taken on November 7, 2018.
(Photo courtesy of  Margaret Regan)

Al Capone flat marker rubbing thanks to my friend Jenny Khalaf.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Casting copy made from Al's original flat marker. A special thank-you to the talented Margaret Regan!
(Mario Gomes collection)

First Posted October 2009