Our Story & History

Our Story & History

Click Here to Read About Our Move to Esopus

Our History

Our funeral home was founded in 1872 by John J. Murphy and has been in continuous operation since that time. Our first funeral home was located on Broadway in Kingston, NY in a four-story building next to the J. J. Maroon Confectionery Store. Subsequently, the founder’s son Nicholas, took over the business at 9 Andrew Street.

James M. Murphy, whose name was carried at the 176 Broadway location, was the grandfather of James F. “Digger” Gilpatric. For a time, he was a field supervisor for Consolidated Edison in New York City, but returned to Kingston and the funeral directorship. For a time, brothers Nicholas and James ran separate funeral homes.

Jim Gilpatric’s mother, Marie Cherney became the youngest licensed woman undertaker in New York State in 1925. She, her father, and James Gilpatric, all were graduates of Renouard Training School of Embalmers, New York City.

Obituary for James Murphy

One of County's Oldest Morticians Dies at Benedictine Hospital, James Murphy of Family in Undertaking Line 82 Years was Ill for Two Weeks 

James M. Murphy , one of Ulster County’s oldest morticians, whose father opened a funeral parlor here in 1872, died Tuesday night, January 12, 1934 at the Benedictine Hospital after an illness of two weeks, He was 74.

The well-known funeral director was stricken after supervising a burial, and was ordered to the hospital by his physician. Although he maintained his usual high spirit, he grew weaker daily until death occurred last night.
Mr. Murphy conducted his own funeral home at 176 Broadway for 38 years, after returning from New York, where he was associated with the New York Edison Corp. for some years.
In the early period of his business he had a partner, Edward Scherer, one of this sections legendary baseball pitchers, who is in critical condition at the Benedictine Hospital himself.
Prior to going to New York, Mr. Murphy was with his father, John J, Murphy, who established a funeral parlor in the downtown part of the city 82 years ago. His mother was Roseann Smith Murphy of Kingston.

A brother, the late Nicholas D. J. Murphy, was also connected with the father whose business he continued after the death of his parent.

Embalmer Over 50 Years

Born in Kingston, Mr. Murphy attended the old Christian Brothers Academy that formerly adjoined St. Mary's Church and was a member of the congregation with his family all his life. He prepared for his profession at the Renouard Training School for Embalmers, New York from which he received his certificate more than a half century ago.
Mr. Murphy was president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians when the society was active in Kingston, and belonged to the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in New York, whose parade he attended annually on March 17th. He was a member of St. Mary's Holy Name Society, St. Mary's Rosary Society, Kingston Council 275, Knights of Columbus; the Fourth Degree Assembly of the council and Kingston Lodge, BPO Elks.

James Gilpatric and Harry VanVliet
James F. Gilpatric officially became associated with the business in 1950, and took over as owner and director in 1954 after the death of his grandfather, James M. Murphy. In recalling stories Jim shared with his grandfather, most funerals were held in the homes in the early days. A funeral in Port Ewen required traveling by way of Eddyville. Later the cortege would take the Skillypot chain ferry across the Rondout Creek to the Port Ewen side. 

Those early funeral processions were a colorful event with hearses drawn by plume bedecked horses and the directors in tall silk hats. In some instances bands would accompany the hearse to the church and cemetery, playing mournful memorials along the way.

In discussing the future of the funeral home in its second century, Gilpatric said that expansion of facilities at the present location is planned in the near future. “I believe in the Rondout area and intend to grow with it” he said, adding that four generations have served here” “Kingston and the area has seen many changes, growth and progress. The years have taught us something deeply valuable in ways to bring sympathy and comfort to those who have called upon us at times of sadness and sorrow – the house when mere words fail.

On October 25, 1972, the James M. Murphy Funeral Home marked its 100th Anniversary with a change of name and plans for expansion. On that date, owner Jim Gilpatric revealed that the name of the four-generation family firm was now the Gilpatric-Murphy Funeral Home. Jim also revealed the particular time of October 1972 was selected as being most fitting for the blending of the new and old aspects of the well-known firm.      

In 2005, Jim Gilpatric sold the familiar two story, green and white funeral home building located next to St. Mary's Church on Broadway, and moved his funeral business into another Kingston funeral home.

The sale represented a semi-retirement for Jim, who had been a licensed funeral director since 1951. In his more than 60 years on the job, Gilpatric had seen changes ranging from how embalming is performed to how the deceased are removed from their place of death to changes in calling hours.

Gravity embalming has been replaced with machine-aided process that cuts the procedure from 12 hours to three. When Gilpatric assisted his grandfather, removals were done in long wicker baskets, and calling hours lasted for days. Family members sometime spent the night.

Already a licensed funeral director at Leahy Funeral Home, Harry VanVliet IV offered to direct the Gilpatric-Murphy Funeral Home calls, a way to assist Jim in transitioning into his semi-retirement. Four years later, in 2009, Harry purchased the Gilpatric-Murphy Funeral Home business from Jim.

Harry pledged that the century-long legacy of compassion and care shared with the community and its families will continue on. In 2010, with the goal of helping families identify which funeral firm Harry owned, he changed the name to the “ Gilpatric-VanVliet Funeral Home ”.

Gilpatric-VanVliet Funeral Home Moves to Esopus

In 2012, Harry announces that the Gilpatric-VanVliet Funeral Home has moved to a newly renovated facility at 339 Broadway, Ulster Park, in Town of Esopus. Just minutes south of Kingston’s Rondout waterfront, the new location is handicap accessible on one level, with a large chapel, multiple restrooms, abundant off-street lighted parking, and a home-like decorated atmosphere.

Uniquely, the move occurs during the year that the funeral home celebrates its 140 th anniversary of continuous compassionate service to families. 

VanVliet Family History

The VanVliet family in the Esopus community can be traced back to the early 1700s. This VanVliet family owned a large farm area on both sides of Rt 9W near River Road. The Riverview Cemetery at Broadway and River Road was originally the VanVliet burial ground until it was eventually turned over to the Riverview Cemetery Association. Today, dozens of VanVliet memorial stones are found at this cemetery dating back to the early 1700’s.

A lifelong resident of the Town of Esopus, Harry VanVliet was raised in the waterfront hamlet of Sleightsburgh, and educated at Port Ewen Elementary School and Kingston High School ('77).

Having worked in Kingston area funeral homes since 1994, he earned his NYS license to practice funeral directing in 2005.

Our Affiliations

The staff members of Gilpatric-VanVliet Funeral Home Ulster Park NY are very active in the Town of Esopus NY community and professional organizations. Here are some of the local, regional and national groups we are a part of.

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