History & Staff

We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Families come to D'Esopo  because they know we are leaders in our profession, and have the highest integrity.

Our History

In 1879. Grazia and Donato D'Esopo were working their farm in Laurenzana, in the province of Potenza, Italy and were concerned about how to equitably divide their land among a family of five boys. They were determined, like so many others of their day, to make a better life for their growing family. They came to the conclusion that there were greater opportunities for their children and decided to take the long, arduous journey across the sea to America. The D'Esopo family was one of the first three Italian families to immigrate to Hartford. America welcomed them as a land of opportunity and they worked hard to realize their dreams. Donato established himself in the grocery business on Morgan Street and later entered the field of real estate. Eventually, six more sons would be born to the couple for a total of eleven boys. All of the boys took advantage of the educational opportunities offered by their newly adopted country. Several of them graduated from Yale University before 1900 with degrees in science, medicine, and law.

Joseph D’Esopo, founder of the D’Esopo Funeral Chapel, was five years old at the time of his arrival in this country. He was an enterprising young boy who was not afraid of hard work. In 1886, at the age of twelve, on the day that the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch was dedicated, he earned the princely sum of $3 shining shoes. He originally became a building contractor, constructing notable structures, among them a Jewish temple, which still stands today and is now known as the Charter Oak Cultural Center on Charter Oak Avenue. In the early 1900’s, a work related injury caused him to change his profession from carpenter to coffin maker. This transition was not unusual in those days and seemed quite appropriate. 

In 1905 a half-gallon of milk cost just 14 cents and “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree” was the number one song. Joseph and Mary Pellettieri D'Esopo were celebrating one year of marriage and simultaneously established the D'Esopo Mortuary Home on Temple Street, near where Sage-Allen once stood. Joseph and Mary fulfilled the need to serve the growing Italian-American community living in the Greater Hartford area. The facility was small in those days since visitation was usually held in the home of the deceased. Joseph's gentle and soft-spoken manner endeared him to the many families he served. Funeral service transactions were often carried out on a handshake and in some cases, families with limited resources were served despite their humble means. At that time, it was common to barter for services. An immigrant tailor once gave Joseph a suit he made in exchange for his father’s funeral services. Joseph was forward thinking even then. He saw the importance of offering the latest options in goods and services, a quality that followed in successive generations of the D’Esopo family.

In the late 1920s, Joseph recognized the changing needs of bereaved families. People now wanted visitation in a location separate from their own homes. To accommodate those he served, he moved his mortuary to a much larger facility in the South End of Hartford at 235 Wethersfield Avenue. The Hartford Courant, dated September 30, 1928, featured the opening of that establishment and described it as being conveniently "reached by automobile or trolley." In addition, it was noted that it was a place, free from "city distractions" where special facilities for music and service were "provided to all regardless of creed or social position." The D'Esopo family was intuitive enough to recognize the need to adapt to changing times. It offered motorized vehicles when the horse and buggy were still popular. In addition, in a profession dominated by men, Mary D'Esopo was one of a few women known to have her funeral director's license as early as 1931. In 1955, an additional viewing chapel was added to accommodate the growing need for public services at the funeral home. That same year, after 50 years in business, Joseph D'Esopo passed away, followed by his wife two years later. Joseph and Mary had six children, three daughters and three sons. Their sons, Daniel, George and Mike, were poised for the natural progression to assume the reigns of the family business.

Growing & Branching out…

Recognizing the need for convenient and accessible service, in 1973, the D'Esopo East Hartford Memorial Chapel was built on Carter Street in East Hartford. This was soon followed by the construction of Wethersfield's first funeral home in 1978. The third generation of the D’Esopo family was contributing their progressive ideas to ensure that the most current offerings in services were provided. Following in their father’s footsteps, while adhering to their grandparents’ core values, Dan and George D’Esopo and Janet D’Esopo Klett and her husband, Mike, assumed responsibilities. In 1985, the D’Esopo family teamed up with a well-known and distinguished funeral firm known as The James T. Pratt Company, which was founded in 1877. Porter and James T. (Tim) Pratt, IV were Wethersfield natives and when it came time to relocate their funeral home from Farmington Avenue, they chose to associate with their longtime friends at the D’Esopo Funeral Chapel in Wethersfield.

The Life Tribute Center

In 2005, the year of the one-hundredth anniversary of the D’Esopo Funeral Chapel, the Life Tribute Center was opened. The Life Tribute Center applies the wisdom and experience gained over the past century of service. It is a separate building, located on the grounds of the Wethersfield facility, where families can convene to plan personalized and meaningful services in warm and comfortable environment. The Life Tribute Center offers a calm setting where families can plan services without the distraction of witnessing other funerals taking place. Our years of experience have taught us that families initially focus on how their loved one died. D’Esopo’s unique Family Care Concierges help to coordinate all of the details that create a meaningful tribute to help celebrate the life of a loved one. It is the person’s life, the contribution they’ve made to their world and their family- which people will most remember and embrace in years to come.

The D’Esopo Funeral Chapel, known for its innovative ideas and compassionate service, continues to be recognized as a national leader. In recognition of a steadfast commitment to professionalism and community service, the National Funeral Director’s Association has awarded the D’Esopo Funeral Chapel its prestigious Pursuit of Excellence Award for over a dozen years and counting. In 2010, D’Esopo was inducted into the Association’s Hall of Excellence, the profession’s highest award and a distinction bestowed on less than 1% of all funeral homes nationally.

In 2016 D’Esopo joined the Dignity Memorial® Network of Providers. By celebrating each life like no other, the same principles of integrity, ethics, quality and service remain the core of how we care for each family. With a long tradition of excellence, we are eager to make the next service the most meaningful one yet.

Our Valued Staff

Mike  Klett, CFSP

Mike Klett, CFSP

Michael A. Klett, CFSP, is a Licensed Funeral Director who graduated from the New England Institute of Mortuary Science. Mike has served on the Board of the Connecticut Funeral Directors and is active in many service organizations and community affairs. He is an associate member of the Wethersfield Volunteer fire Department.He has also earned the distinction of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner from the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. This distinction is indicative of the completion of specified academic and professional programs that improve the standards of funeral practice. Mike is married to Janet, the grandaughter of the founder of the D'Esopo Funeral Chapel.

George  D'Esopo, CFSP

George D'Esopo, CFSP

George J. D'Esopo - A Licensed Funeral Director for 50 years, George J. D'Esopo is a graduate of the McAlister School of Mortuary Science. An active participant in community affairs, George exemplifies the work ethic of his grandparents who started the D'Esopo Funeral Chapel in 1905.
He has earned the distinction of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner from the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. This distinction is indicative of the completion of specified academic and professional programs that improve the standards of funeral practice.

Janet D'Esopo  Klett, RN

Janet D'Esopo Klett, RN, Director of Community Service

Janet D'Esopo Klett, RN is a Registered nurse with clinical background in geriatrics and public health. She currently serves as the Director of Community Service for the D'Esopo Funeral Chapel, assisting families with their bereavement needs. She has received local and national recognition for her work in the bereavement field. Janet is the granddaughter of the founders of the company.

Lionel J. Lessard,  Jr., CFSP

Lionel J. Lessard, Jr., CFSP, General Manager, D'Esopo Funeral Chapels

Lionel J. Lessard, Jr. is the General Manager of the D'Esopo Funeral Chapels, and as such oversees the quality of services provided to families in both locations. He is knowledgeable in all aspects of funeral service, and is known for his dedication to his profession as well as his active involvement in numerous community organizations.

He has earned the distinction of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner from the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. This distinction is indicative of the completion of specified academic and professional programs that improve the standards of funeral practice. He currently resides in East Hartford with his wife, Christina.

Daniel K.  McCarthy, CFSP

Daniel K. McCarthy, CFSP, Manager, Wethersfield Location

Dan is a graduate of Briarwood College of Mortuary Science. He has attained the distinction of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner. Dan is the Location Manager of the Wethersfield Branch and as such, oversees the general operation of all activities in that location. In his limited spare time, Dan enjoys being outdoors, hunting, fishing and working in his yard. He especially enjoys his time with his family and wife Janet. Dan currently lives in Southington.

David  Bonola, CFSP

David Bonola, CFSP

David Bonola is a graduate of Briarwood College of Mortuary Science. He brings a military background to his position as Funeral Director/Embalmer - having served as a Surface Warfare and Tiger Team Supervisor for the US Navy. David is still active in the Naval Reserves and is a former Security Officer at New Britain General Hospital. Dave, his wife Dina and sons Christian and Julian live in Southington.
He has earned the distinction of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner from the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. This distinction is indicative of the completion of specified academic and professional programs that improve the standards of funeral practice.

Samatha Cusano CFSP

Samatha Cusano CFSP, Licensed Funeral Director

Samantha Cusano, a life long Wethersfield resident, joined the D’Esopo Funeral Chapel in May of 2013. Sam attended Wethersfield schools and is a 2014 graduate of Mt. Ida College - New England Institute in Newton, MA. She is a Licensed Funeral Director and a communicant of Corpus Christi Church. Samantha has been awarded the distinction of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. She has attended national programs furthering her education and skills in the restorative arts. She is an active member of her community and participates in many civic activities in town.

Michael Madonna CFSP

Michael Madonna CFSP, Licensed Funeral Director

Michael Madonna is a graduate of American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service. He worked in New York City’s oldest funeral home (est.1885) before moving to Connecticut. Michael lives in Clinton with his loving wife Mary and their three children. He is a volunteer with the NYC Medical Examiner. He is a long time parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Michael has earned the elite distinction of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner through the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice by achieving a higher level of education in his chosen field.

Katy Black CFSP

Katy Black CFSP, Funeral Director

Katy is a 2003 graduate of Briarwood College of Mortuary Science and has been licensed since 2004 and has achieved the distinction of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner. Katy is a Licensed Funeral Director at the Wethersfield Branch as well as D’Esopo-East Hartford Memorial Chapel. Growing up in a military family, she has lived in 4 different countries and 3 different states where she has met many people along the way. Katy is also fluent in American Sign Language. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time at her family’s campsite with her husband David, daughter Zoey, father Pastor Mark Pilletere and mother Jean. She also enjoys involving herself in her community. Katy currently lives in Berlin.

Cristina Orsini  Harris

Cristina Orsini Harris, Family Care Concierge

Cristina comes to D’Esopo with 25 years of office experience with The Travelers Corporation. Her experience at The Travelers has given her extensive training in customer service. Her exceptional organizational skills, compassionate disposition and commitment to our families needs make her an asset to our establishment. Cristina grew up and lives in Wethersfield along with her children, Audra, Alyssa and Alexander.

Joan  Olenick

Joan Olenick, Family Care Concierge, East Hartford

Joan works in our East Hartford Location as an Administrative Assistant and Family Care Concierge SM. Her finely tuned organizational skills make her a perfect candidate for this position. Prior to coming to work for our funeral chapel, she worked for St. Issac Jogues Church as parish secretary.

Patricia  Ference

Patricia Ference, Chief Financial Officer

Patty Ference currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer for the D'Esopo Funeral Chapel and D'Esopo Resource Center. She has over 20 years of financial management experience and has a background in the health care industry. Patty resides in Berlin with her husband Mike and their daughters Ashley and Emily.

Noreen  Guildner

Noreen Guildner, Administrative Assistant

Noreen Guildner is an accomplished secretary who brings her years of former experience working with the local school system to her position as administrative assistant. Her organizational ability, compassionate demeanor and interpersonal skills serve her and our clients well.

Maria  Matulis

Maria Matulis, Administrative Assistant

Maria is responsible for the coordination of all office activities. Her exceptional organizational skills and experience in public relations make her a natural for this position. Prior to Maria joining our staff she worked with Exxon Mobil as a Facility Concierge Specialist. Maria lives in Middletown with her daughters, Alex, Julia and husband, Ray.

Brett  Backman

Brett Backman, Plant Engineer

Brett's responsibility as Plant Engineer is to ensure that our buildings and motor equipment function in top condition at all times. His background in environmental maintenance makes him a perfect candidate for this position.

Cecilia  D'Esopo

Cecilia D'Esopo, Hair Dresser

Ceil D'Esopo - is a Licensed Hair Dresser for over 35 years and as such, is responsible for assuring that family wishes for hair design are carried out. She is the wife of George D'Esopo.