Biography of Daniel J. O'hara
San Francisco, CA Biographies





Not only is Daniel J. O'Hara a member of the oldest undertaking firm of San Francisco, that of McAvoy, O'Hara & Company at 4450 Geary street and 2051 Market street, but he has been the originator of a number of the modern methods of his profession in this city.

County Tyrone, Ireland, was the birthplace of Mr. O'Hara, and his natal day was September 5, 1884. Undertaking first aroused his interest when he was in boyhood, and he gained a fundamental knowledge of the business in lining caskets and other routine tasks. In 1903, when he was in his nineteenth year, he came to the United States, and first located in Kansas City, Missouri, where he had friends who endeavored to persuade him to remain there and enter business. However, glowing tales of California and its opportunities had reached his ears, and he turned his steps toward the western coast. He arrived in San Francisco during the autumn of 1903. He had with him a sizable amount of money, which had been bequeathed to him by an uncle in Ireland, and he was enabled thereby to purchase a one half interest in an undertaking firm with Frank Monihan on Mission street. Eight months later, litigation arose between the partners, and as a result Mr. O'Hara lost his financial resources. His next move was to call on H. J. McAvoy, who offered him a one fourth interest in his business and a salary of eighty five dollars per month, and this was the beginning of Mr. O'Hara's rise to prosperity and success in the undertaking business. As noted previously, the McAvoy-O'Hara firm conducts the oldest active undertaking concern in the city of San Francisco. It was established in 1850 as Flanigan & Gallagher, then became McAvoy & Gallagher, and finally McAvoy, O'Hara & Company. The first place of business was on Fifth street near Market; the second was at Hayes street and Van Ness avenue; and at present the two homes of the company are at 2051 Market street and 4450 Geary street.

Mr. O'Hara has always had advanced ideas in the undertaking business, and has been a pioneer in many of the improved methods introduced. He built the first modern funeral parlor in San Francisco in 1904, but in the fire of 1906 he lost everything. However, within two weeks' time, he and his partner had opened a small place on Market street amidst the burned ruins of the city, and in 1910 he again constructed a modern undertaking establishment. Then, in 1915, he built the branch parlor at 4450 Geary street. At the time, there were only a few houses in that district, and his friends cautioned him not to make the mistake of entering that section. He gambled on his own judgment, however, and proved to be winner. He originated the concealed choir arrangement in funeral homes, and he was likewise the first to use an electric elevator and to have an upstairs room for the families. The two homes in use by McAvoy, O'Hara & Company were both designed by Mr. O'Hara, and over twenty five thousand dollars worth of furnishings and equipment have been added. This firm is the largest real estate holder of any similar firm in the city. The achievements of Mr. O'Hara in conducting his business have been entirely the result of his own efforts. He began at the bottom, having been only nineteen when he started in San Francisco, and at that time was the youngest undertaker in California and also the youngest member of the California State Funeral Directors Association. He has been an admirable employer. One of his male employes who recently retired was with the firm forty years, while Miss E. Waltenspiel has been secretary of the company for twenty one years.

Mr. O'Hara was united in marriage to Miss Maude McLaughlin, a native daughter of San Francisco, whose father was a prominent physician of this city. Mr. and Mrs. O'Hara have one son, Daniel J., Jr., who was born in 1917.

From:
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931


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