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McMahon-Coyne-Vitantonio’s Willoughby location is rich in local history. The building was originally constructed in the 1840s as a stagecoach home where horses and their travelers would rest. In fact, the porch’s front entrance is flanked by the two original doors (since sealed shut) that lead to what had been the dining room.
James A. McMahon, who opened McMahon Funeral Home in 1920, was known for his love of Willoughby as well as his bass voice. He was born in Mentor in 1880 and his baptism was attended by the newly elected President James A. Garfield. As he grew, so did his passion for music and civic activity. His popular singing engagements and radio spots along with local business endeavors earned him the nickname “Mr. Willoughby.”
James’ son, Lawrence McMahon, eventually took over the funeral business and ran it until 1976, when Mike Coyne purchased the business. “Running a funeral home was my lifelong goal,” Mike says, adding that he is extremely happy and proud to be a part of such a trusted and successful business.
The Girl in Blue
For sixty years, the young lady who had been hit by a train near a boarding house in Willoughby was simply known as “The Girl in Blue.” No one knew who she was, where she was going or who to contact about her death on Christmas Eve 1933. She carried no identification, only 90 cents and a ticket to Corry, Pennsylvania. She wore a blue dress and blue shoes.
McMahon Funeral Home adopted this young lady’s funeral arrangements. Local donations paid for a headstone and flowers. More than 3,000 local residents went to McMahon Funeral Home to bid farewell to a girl they never knew.
Her identity remained a mystery of national interest until a local newspaper story commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of her death sparked a reader to contact a title agency that researched records from the sale of properties in Warren County, Pennsylvania. State authorities determined that Josephine Klimczak was The Girl in Blue. Lake County records, however, have not changed the death certificate; she is still listed as The Girl in Blue.
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