‘Great listener’ retiring after 42 years as Mount Prospect funeral director.
Date: December 31, 2016
Story by: Steve Zalusky
Published by: Daily Herald

After more than four decades as a funeral director, Thomas Nolan is about to prove there is such a thing as life after death.

Nolan, who is retiring from Friedrichs Funeral Home in Mount Prospect after 42 years, said he plans to enjoy time with his grandchildren.

After performing a job that has him on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he will now devote his time to his family, which includes wife Margie, daughters Colleen Clark and Kathleen Nolan and sons Tom and Jack, as well as grandchildren Keira, Owen and Brennan Clark and Gehrig Nolan.

“It’s been a great run here,” the Mount Prospect resident said. “But it’s kind of time for me to take it easy a little bit and relax and enjoy my family.”

The father of the current president, Hank Friedrichs, hired Nolan in 1974 from a livery service used by Friedrichs. Nolan had graduated from Triton College in River Grove and received training in the funeral business at the Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Wheeling.

Friedrichs said the selfish part of him would love Nolan to stay, but he recognizes it is time for Nolan to move on.

“The thing about Tom is he has always been a family man. Tom has always coached his kids. Tom is now involved in his grandkids’ life,” Friedrichs said. “It’s come time now that he take that role in his life and make that No. 1.”

Nolan will be replaced by Joe Gamboney, who not only works at Friedrichs, but also lives with his family above the funeral home. Nolan grew up with Gamboney’s father and uncles on Chicago’s West Side.

Gamboney said he values Nolan’s organizational skills — coordinating multiple funerals and wakes and handling staffing issues.

“There are tons of little things that he knows right off the bat that I have never experienced,” he said. “He’s a great listener. He works well with the families. That’s the main thing: listening to people and understanding what they’re asking, when the people don’t really know what they want.”

Nolan said that as funeral director, he is deeply involved with his clients.

“It’s really intense, but for a very short time frame,” he said. “You’re in and out of people’s lives. It’s good, because it allows you to help people. But sometimes you wish you could develop a better relationship with people on a long term. And it can’t happen, because you can’t function like that.”

Funerals for the young are particularly difficult, he said, recalling a case when the funeral home served two families who lost children in a car crash.

“It was possibly the most trying couple of weeks in my existence,” he said.

Funerals always went smoothly with Nolan, Friedrichs said.

“The thing that Tom has going for him most is his ability to make people feel comfortable. … In our business there are a lot of emotions. Tom does inspire confidence in what he does, because he has done it for so long and Tom has seen pretty much everything there is out there,” Friedrichs said.

“The people that you serve are going to see that and they are going to respect that.”

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