The Bowra & O'Dea Story
Bowra & O’Dea has deep roots in the local community. From humble beginnings as one of the foundation funeral businesses to be established in Perth city, it now reaches across the wider metropolitan area.
From humble beginnings
Michael O’Dea, a blacksmith and William Charles Bowra, a wheelwright, came together to form Bowra & O’Dea – Coachbuilders and Undertakers in 1888.
That same year Michael O’Dea married Mary Hayman. They had ten children – seven daughters and 3 sons – but life wasn’t always kind with the death of twin daughters just six months after their birth and later the tragic death of a son, Michael (Jnr) in 1929.
Catering to a growing community
The original Bowra & O’Dea premises were located on the corner of Goderich Street (now known as Murray Street) and Pier Street and provided a service that catered to the growing demands of our bustling state. In the early years the firm’s emphasis was largely on coach-building, although funerals were regularly arranged and conducted.
By 1905 the business had moved to new premises at 195 Pier Street, on the northern side of the Perth city railway line, which is now the site of Bowra & O’Dea’s head office. In 1916 Michael O’Dea became the first undertaker to be appointed to the Karrakatta Cemetery Board, a position in which he served until his death at the age of 68 in 1932.
On 23 January 1923, Joseph George O’Dea married Mary Grace Golding. They had two daughters and a son – Nancy Dolores, Kathleen Mary and Joseph Michael.
After Michael O’Dea’s death in 1932, Joseph George became principal of the company and began concentrating solely on its funeral business. Following Joseph’s premature death in 1947, the ongoing management of the company was left to Sid Briggs, an accountant who Joseph had employed in 1934. In 1949 Joseph Michael O’Dea joined the company and, with the help and loyalty of Mr Sid Briggs, the family company started its expansion.
The family grows… and grows
The Directors purchased the businesses of Perth Funeral Directors, of Hay Street, Perth and Horace L. Green Funeral Directors (now Bowra & O’Dea, Cottesloe). In 1958 Joseph Michael married Betty Jean Patterson. Together they had four sons and two daughters. Joseph, Timothy, Antony (Tony), Jane, Lucy and Justin.
Perth and Monahan’s Funeral Services becomes part of the Bowra & O’Dea family of locations. Now known as Bowra & O’Dea Dianella.
The first branch office
The first branch office was opened in Cannington during the renovation of the Stirling Street branch. This was followed soon after by the opening of the Balga (later re-named Westminster) branch in 1977. The group continued to expand with the purchase of well-known Fremantle funeral company Arthur E Davies in 1978. Current Managing Director Joseph Michael Jnr joined the company in 1976. Timothy John, the second son of Joseph and Betty joined in 1977. Tragically, Timothy was killed in 1981 aged 20.
WA’s largest funerals group
The group continued to expand with the opening of newly built premises for Arthur E Davies in Mandurah in 1980. Two years later in 1984, Tony and Justin O’Dea joined the company. They are both current directors. With the purchase of Arthur E Davies in 1978, Bowra & O’Dea had grown to be the largest funeral group in Western Australia. In 1988 the Midland branch opened.
During the 1980s Bowra & O’Dea introduced pre-paid funerals, allowing people to be able to plan and/or prepay their own or a family member’s funeral. This service not only provided people with peace of mind and a sense of control, it helped ease the stress and financial burden on family members.
Leanne O’Dea Funeral Directors
Leanne O’Dea Funeral Directors was established in 1993, with Joseph and Betty’s daughter-in-law Leanne working to create a brand to enhance the range of services to families. Joseph and Betty’s fifth child Lucy also worked in the Female Division for a short time, bringing to six the total of family members working together at one time.
In 1995, after a chance meeting in a taxi with Tim Lawrence, past president of Men of the Trees (Now Trillion Trees Australia), a volunteer tree planting organisation, Joseph O’Dea Jnr established the Memorial Groves program, and in conjunction with Trillion Trees began planting trees to provide a living and lasting memorial for those who have lost a loved one. Since its inception, Bowra & O’Dea have sponsored the planting of over 2.5 million trees in nine Memorial Groves around regional WA and Perth.
A new address in Mandurah
Bowra & O’Dea Mandurah relocates to new premises – one of our largest Funeral homes – with a chapel capacity for up to 400 guests (sitting & standing), parking for over 100 vehicles, situated on the same property as our function centre Sid’s Place.
Situated on the same property as our Mandurah branch, Sid’s Place, named in loving memory of former Bowra & O’Dea employee Sid Briggs. Sid was a close personal friend of Joe O’Dea and his family, playing a key role in the expansion of the company.
Cannington location upgrade
Our Cannington location is renovated with a range of modern facilities so we can continue to serve our community into the future. With the purchase of the property next door, the Cannington location has increased significantly in size to become one of our largest funeral homes.