Robert J. Babione

R.J. Babione, founder of Boca funeral home, dies By Eliot Kleinberg

Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 05, 2004

Robert J. Babione, who founded his Boca Raton-based funeral home chain four decades ago and turned it into one of the largest in South Florida, died Wednesday, the funeral home said. Mr. Babione had been treated for a heart condition, relatives said.

Mr. Babione, 75, opened the original Babione Funeral Home on North Federal Highway in Boca Raton and added locations west of Boca Raton and in Lantana.

"Mr. Babione was one of the most respected and dedicated professionals in the funeral service in South Florida," Daniel R. Perrin, general manager of Dorsey-E. Earl Smith Funeral Home in suburban Lake Worth and a board member of the Florida Funeral Directors Association, said Thursday.

The Lake Worth native was graduated from Lake Worth High School. After serving in the Korean War, he received a degree in mortuary sciences from the Dallas Institute, then started his career at the Lake Worth Funeral Home, later E. Earl Smith Funeral Home.

He founded Babione in Boca Raton in 1964. He retired in 1986, but remained active in the company and in the community.

"There was barely a week that the society page came out in the paper that Mom and Dad weren't in it," son-in-law Joseph Veccia said.

"Mr. Babione was a pillar of the community," Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams said. "He probably was one of the original founders of just about every club in Boca. And he was involved right up to the end."

Mr. Babione was a member of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church and was active in numerous groups, including the Sierra Club, Kiwanis Club, American Legion and Elks. He supported various local philanthropies, including the Boca Raton Historical Society, YMCA of Boca Raton, Mae Volen Senior Center, Boca Pops and Boca Raton Community Hospital.

"He was a gentleman that was special in every way," Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce President Mike Arts said. "He supported, and was involved in, every organization, every association, every need in this community."

Mr. Babione is survived by Helen, his wife of 54 years, and daughters Kathryn Rogers, Phyllis Haggerty and Patricia Ashley Babione of Boca Raton; Mary Veccia of Delray Beach; and Jean Babione of Palm Beach Gardens. He is also survived by sons Robert Babione Jr. of Lake Worth and Paul Babione of Boca Raton; brother John Babione of Okeechobee; and sister Pauline Neff of Boynton Beach. Mr. Babione had 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation is set for 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Babione Funeral Home east chapel, 1100 North Federal Highway, with a wake set for 7 p.m. Sunday.

A funeral mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church.

Relatives have requested people donate to the charity of their choice rather than sending flowers.

Published in The Palm Beach Post on Aug. 5, 2004