John (Sherm) Passalacqua is a fixture in this town, as was his father before him and his grandfather and great grandfather.
After immigrating to the United States from Italy in the 1880s, Nicola Passalacqua, bought a ranch that covered the present site of the Benicia High School campus, and sold produce. Nicola’s son, Frank, was the first of the Passalacquas to enter the funeral business. He did so in the 1930s, when he partnered with Mr. Chrisholm, creating the company Chrisholm and Passalacqua. In 1943, Frank Passalacqua became the sole owner of the funeral home and ran it until retiring in 1962. Frank’s son and John’s father, Donald, took over the business and expanded it in 1973, when he bought Twin Chapels Mortuary, which has been operating in Vallejo since the 1950s. He remained in charge of Passalacqua Funeral Chapel until 1992. John joined the firm on Jan. 3, 1977, becoming its president and director after his father.
The business continues to be firmly rooted in tradition, but it is also flexible and accommodating to changes in funeral service, and the ebb and flow of popular trends.
From referring clients to bereavement counseling experts to providing “green” options, Passalacqua Funeral Chapel has kept up with the times. The chapel also has video capabilities so a life can be summarized and celebrated wordlessly. “I think it’s important to celebrate a person’s life and legacy,” John said. “It turns a negative experience into a positive experience,” he said.
There is creativity in John’s approach to personalized service, especially when it comes to Benicia old timers, those who used to Cruise Main (First Street) when there wasn’t much else to do in Benicia. Sherm reminisces about those days and offers a final cruise on First in his 1950 Biscayne sedan delivery wagon/hearst with the license plate that has phonetic spelling for the Benicia native pronunciation of Benicia. BANISHA. Can’t really get better than that.
John is involved in Benicia in many ways; He has enjoyed membership in the Elks Club and is still very active in the Native Sons of the Golden West. He is on The St. Patrick–St. Vincent Catholic High School Board of Trustees and held a position on the Board of Sutter Solano Hospital.
John has also provided scholarships under Mrs. Mildred Passalacqua at Sons of Italy.
And, most importantly, he is there for people in their time of need. Those that know John would describe him as kindhearted and considerate to a fault. He sincerely cares about people. He considers every person he meets, including clients, as part of his own family and always looks out for their best interest. It takes a great deal of empathy to know what each person needs in their time of bereavement, to know the right approach to guide them through what is always a very difficult time. John instinctively knows what to say and what to do.
Of course there is an extraordinary amount of stress in what John does, but he is a man who understands balance. He balances his work with love of the outdoors and sports. He is passionate about the game of basketball, he loves fishing, biking, long walks, and he’s an avid golfer. In fact he has a couple of golf clubs in the hallway outside his office, and when needed, he’ll put those clubs to good use.