After five years in the funeral industry, Kate Cheman wanted to run her own establishment. Then one day last fall, while perusing a newsletter related to her trade, she spied an opportunity in Donora.

James A. Rabe Funeral Home, a borough staple for a century but mothballed for the past half-dozen years, was for sale, according to an ad.

“I Googled it and drove there,” Cheman said. “As soon as I pulled up, I knew it was my funeral home.”

It officially became hers in November, when Cheman closed the sale on the property. Then following a lengthy remodeling, she was in business for herself. Now Donora, once a town with numerous funeral homes that all eventually shuttered, has one that’s operating.

Rabe-Cheman Funeral Home & Cremations, as it has been rechristened, is up and running at 701 Thompson Ave. Cheman kept the venerable Rabe name after purchasing the property as a testament to the family from whom she bought it.

The new owner opened Sept. 1, but has had no clients yet. She is gung-ho and has scheduled an open house from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 10 during which the public can tour the grounds.

Cheman, whose funeral home now doubles as her residence, has been ingratiating herself to a valley community that is far from, but similar to, her valley community. She relocated here from the New Kensington area along the Allegheny River.

Updating and upgrading the house was a formidable task, and cost a formidable buck. Cheman said she took out a $50,000 loan, but spent more. Yet the blood, sweat, tears and money expended paid off in a bright, fashionable interior and a wide front porch that is neatly appointed.

“It took a year for my family and I to complete the remodeling,” she said. “I personally painted every inch. My dad did most of the work – he’s very handy. My mom ripped down wallpaper, and my sister and brother-in-law helped a lot.”

The property is loaded with history, including funeral records dating to 1909.

Cheman said she was amazed at the ethnic mix of residents from the Donora area, especially during the early 20th century. She also said she found “page after page” of local casualties from the 1918 flu epidemic, a global tragedy that hit the Mon Valley especially hard.

“There were a lot of young people,” she said.

There were, however, no records from 1948, the year of the Donora smog incident.

Cheman has enjoyed her brief time in the other valley, and said she appreciates the support residents have extended.

“Everybody here has been great,” said Cheman, a licensed funeral director since 2013. “People are happy to see the business reopening.”

For more information, visit or call 724-379-9020.

Canton shop opens

The owner of Countryside Deli has launched a second Canton Township business.

Corey DeGiovanni opened “Happy Pappys Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor” Monday at 869 Henderson Ave.

“The location became available and we were looking to expand and diversify,” he said Wednesday in an email.

The new shop is open seven days a week and has a staff of 12. There also are a dozen employees at the deli, which is open six days and added a food truck this year.

WHS honored

Washington Hospital, the flagship of Washington Health System, has been recognized for excellence in patient safety by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.

WHS is a member of HAP, whose Excellence in Patient Safety Recognition program recognizes Pennsylvania hospitals that have reduced health care-associated infections. Members are credited for performing better than the mean standardized infection ratio in three key measures: central line-associated bloodstream infection; catheter-associated urinary tract infection; and clostridium difficile infection.

HAP advocates for the health and well-being of residents statewide. HAP cited 24 Pennsylvania hospitals for this achievement at its recent Quality, Patient Safety and Sepsis Symposium in Lancaster.

Notary seminars

Pennsylvania Association of Notaries has scheduled three educational seminars for next week at the Holiday Inn Express, 810 Highlands Meadow Drive, Washington.

Two PAN seminars will take place Oct. 29. The state-approved First Time Notary Seminar (9 a.m. to noon) fulfills the three-hour mandatory education provision for new notaries. It will be offered in conjunction with the Everyday Notary Challenges Seminar (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.).

Notary Reappointment Seminar will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 30. It will fulfill Pennsylvania’s educational requirement for reappointed notaries, and will cover new aspects of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts. They will include the notary appointment process, identifying your customers, changes in notary equipment and witnessing or attesting a signature.

The cost for each seminar is $69. Pre-registration is recommended.

For more information, call PAN at 800-944-8790 or visit

Nonprofit leader

Community Options Inc., a national nonprofit, has appointed Lacie Parker as director of Pennsylvania operations.

The organization supports thousands of individuals with disabilities in finding housing and employment appointments, and has a local office in Washington, at 90 W. Chestnut St., Suite 225.

Pittsburgh native Robert Stack is president and chief executive officer of Community Options.

Avella video program

Jesse Saunders, an Avella Area High School teacher who supervises the school’s video program, said the program received two grants totaling $7,300 for this school year. One was a $6,300 Intermediate Unit 1’s mini-innovation grant, the other a $1,000 Remake Learning’s Ignite grant.

Saunders said the grants and advertising money raised from live broadcasts of football and basketball on Hickory Cable paid for seven iMacs. This occurred after the school district agreed to buy three iMacs out of its budget. “So, we were able to completely update the iMac lab,” he said of the total acquisition of 10 iMacs.

Rahal location

Bobby Rahal Automotive Group has opened a new dealership in North Strabane Township: Jaguar Land Rover South Hills on Route 19.

This is Bobby Rahal’s five auto dealership in the Pittsburgh region. Jaguar Land Rover South Hills had a grand opening Oct. 2.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!

Thank you for reading!

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading. If you have a subscription, please Log In.