LYNN — The late Walter A. Cuffe Jr. gave Tom Newhall his first job and now he is turning the page on a new chapter in Cuffe-McGinn Funeral Home’s history.
Newhall is the managing funeral director for the Maple Street business owned by Dignity Memorial, a national funeral home network. With a legacy stretching back to 1934 when Cuffe’s father, Walter, opened a Johnson Street funeral home, Cuffe-McGinn arranges almost 260 funeral services annually with six employees and assistance from Walter A. Cuffe Jr.’s widow, Sally Cuffe.
“To me, Walter was a legend. He taught me the value of taking care of families in their toughest times,” Newhall said.
Newhall was a junior at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute in 1988 when his parents told him to add work on top of his study schedule. He met Cuffe as an altar boy at Sacred Heart Church.
“I knocked on Walter’s door and he said, ‘Go to the garage and wash the cars,'” Newhall said.
A Tech Class of 1990 member (and Hall of Fame member), Newhall studied the funeral business at the former New England Institute at Mount Ida College, graduating in 1993 even as he continued working for Cuffe. It was Cuffe who taught Newhall that a funeral director has “one shot at getting right” when it comes to treating families with respect during the toughest time in their lives.
“At 2 a.m., the phone rings. Someone just died. You have to be ready. You have to live funeral service,” Newhall said.
Newhall honed the skills he learned from Cuffe and at Mount Ida. His work with Cuffe spanned three decades with a five-year break when Newhall worked for a Melrose funeral home.
In 2014, Newhall bought Pike Funeral Home in Gloucester and praised city residents for embracing him. Newhall expanded the funeral home to the point where he agreed with his wife, Robin, in 2019 to sell the business.
“We were growing and I was getting stretched thin,” he said.
He sold the Gloucester funeral home to Campbell Funeral Home in Beverly and “hit the ground running” with his return to Cuffe-McGinn. The funeral industry is changing, Newhall said, with more people favoring cremations and intensifying the demand for personalized funerals.
“What I love about this business is you have to be creative. People don’t want cookie-cutter funeral homes,” he said.
He relies on lessons Cuffe taught him to support grieving families.
“I’m a very passionate person. It is the most rewarding job to be with a family that is having a life-altering experience,” he said.