Frank J Siebert Funeral Directors is, and always has been, a South Australian family owned company.
Since 1867, five generations of the Siebert Family have served the South Australian Community, across the state. Through every generation, our commitment to uncompromising service, personal attention and responsible pricing has not wavered.
Our staff are skilled in supporting and guiding families in crafting personalised and meaningful experiences of farewell. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day by an experienced member of our staff.
A full range of service experiences are available, from informal and intimate family gatherings to large public funerals, non-religious services, services for all faiths, memorial services and State funerals.
No service cremation and burials are also available.
We have a proven record in international and domestic repatriations, and are experienced in packaging of ashes for international conveyance.
Our personalised Pre-Need Consultations can assist you to consider the range of options that best suit your needs. Our pre-need consultations are at no cost, and with no obligation.
As members of the Australian Funeral Director's Association, we pride ourselves on upholding the Associations' Code of Ethics. With little regulation of the funeral industry in South Australia, being an Association member, and committing to uphold our Code of Ethics is a public statement of the standards we promise to uphold.
We are grateful for the trust that families continue to place in us.
To be invited into a family circle at such a time is a privilege and a trust without equal. The only thing that matters at such a time are the wishes of those we serve.
This is our commitment.
As the fifth generation of the Siebert family to own and operate our family business, I take great pride in walking in the footsteps of so many generations of my family. The privilege, and responsibility, of being the first Siebert woman to stand in the limelight is not lost on me. I wasn't raised in the business; in fact we were kept at arm's length as children. It wasn't until my mid-twenties, after working in a completely different sector, that I felt drawn to work alongside my grandmother and father. My early work-life was in the not-for-profit sector. Daily, I was called to place someone else at the centre of what I do, to afford everyone respect, and to offer genuine hospitality to all I encountered. This has placed me well for my work today. My first sojourn in the business was only ever meant to be temporary-while I finished a Master's degree in Adolescent Mental Health. It might not surprise anyone that I didn't ever finish the Masters degree. I fell in love with the work, with the front of house and back of house of the life of a funeral director. I only left eight years later to have a period of maternity leave and raising children. I think I surprised a few family members when I announced in 2015 that I was ready to return, and rather than work for my father, I would buy the business from him so that he could enjoy his well-earned retirement. And I can honestly say that I have found every single day, rewarding. Influenced, I imagine, by my early work life, I want to make a difference to the lives of those around me. So supporting grieving families and creating a workplace culture that is unapologetically service focussed has become a great passion of mine. It is the legacy I hope to leave for the next generation.
If, when I was in high school, you had told me that I would one day part own a funeral business, I probably would have been quite confused. Not because I had any particular career planned, but mostly because I had no family history in the industry, or any reason to end up involved in it. Up to that point, my knowledge of funerals was derived solely from the funerals of my grandparents; huge Italian affairs that bore little relationship to anything that I might find interesting as a career! Often, the path that leads from one point to another only really makes sense afterwards, when you can look back on it as a whole. My story starts with my parents; first generation migrants from the same Italian village, who met and married in Adelaide. Not surprisingly, they built their home in Campbelltown, a suburb which still has the highest concentration of Italian-born residents in all of Australia. Dad was a bricklayer, so he genuinely built the family home himself, from digging the foundations to laying the roof tiles. Mum grew up in Australia, where her father worked at Holden’s and her mother at Balfour’s, and both of them pressed her to finish the schooling they never had a chance to complete. My father came to Australia with everything he owned in one vinyl covered cardboard trunk, which he borrowed from a friend and had to send back afterwards. As with most migrants, their hope was that they would be giving their children some of the opportunities that were never available to them. Given my heritage, it was no particular surprise that I was born and raised in Campbelltown; my parents didn’t even have to cross a main road driving me home from the hospital! While dad built houses, my mother managed a refugee charity, so I grew up surrounded by a whole range of cultures and backgrounds, and with a desire to do something that was worthwhile and helpful to others. So when my school offered the graduating Year 12 Class the chance to volunteer in a program for children at risk, it was precisely the type of thing that I was interested in. Through the program, I met Natasha Siebert, also a volunteer, and then over time her family. After working as a solicitor and then for the Anglican Church, I was considering where I might go next, when Natasha called me and asked if I was interested in joining her in taking on her family business. The idea appealed to me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was very familiar with the business. While still practising law, I’d helped Natasha’s grandmother Betty Siebert tidy up the ownership structure of the business, which had become splintered over the generations. Additionally, after leaving the charity she had worked for, my mother was employed by Natasha’s father, Bernard Siebert, and had worked at Siebert’s as a funeral director for over a decade. Secondly, it appealed to me to be able to use my knowledge and experience helping people to find a way through a distressing time in their lives. Thirdly, it dealt with the nagging thought implanted by my father that I needed to do something “real”. As a brickie, he was able to see buildings he had built every day, and being a lawyer never impressed him! I was excited by the chance to join a family business with such a long established history, and I understood that it was important to preserve that story into the future. It has turned out to have been an inspired decision, and I have enjoyed every day since. It helps that Natasha and I met through volunteering; it means we already knew that we shared values of integrity, honesty and service which continue to guide us every day.
Here is our story.
When telling family history, we all take a little creative licence in making our forebears seem more heroic, more debonair or more exciting than they actually were. The stories we have told about the Siebert Family, and the funeral business they ran, are probably no different – so forgive me as I tell you about the Siebert men and women in whose footsteps I walk.
Previous tellings of our story have focussed almost exclusively on the men in our history – my great-great-grandfather, and our founder, Joseph Bartholomew Siebert Snr; his larger than life successor, Francis (Frank) Joseph Siebert Snr; and my grandfather and reluctant funeral director, Joseph Bartholomew Siebert Jnr. Yet the transition of our family business through five generations wasn’t simple, was never really planned, and rested on the shoulders of many more family members than these three very public personalities.
We start our story in 1867 with Joseph B. Siebert, a carpenter and builder making coffins as a sideline.
‘Old Joe’ migrated to Queensland, Australia, in 1865 from the Province of Hanover, Germany. Struggling with Queensland’s humidity, Joe moved to Adelaide by early 1867. With the demand for skilled carpenters and builders, he quickly established a building business in Coglin Street, just off Gouger Street, and assisted with the construction of buildings such as the Supreme Court Hotel, shops, two-story inner city dwellings, and also co-constructed the Western Wing of Christian Brothers’ College in Wakefield Street. The business milled timber, undertook design and building contracts and, when there was a quiet day in the workshop, Joe would make coffins ... as all carpenters did in those days!
By the 1880s, Joe had increasingly let the building side of the business go to focus primarily on undertaking. By all accounts, Joe was a kind-hearted man with a thick German accent. Popular and well-known in town, Joe also stood as an Adelaide City Councillor for many years, and was very interested in the growing and developing city.
In time, Joe was joined by his three sons, Francis, Vincent and John. But when Joseph died suddenly in 1892, his sons were 15, 17 and 24 respectively. John, the eldest, wasn’t involved with the business for long, so who ran the business until Frank and Vin were of an age to assume that responsibility? Mrs Joseph B. Siebert.
In a time before electricity, motor cars and telephones - when women certainly didn’t own and run businesses - Elizabeth Siebert stepped forward and ran the business, conducting funerals in her late husband’s place, until Frank and Vin could manage on their own.
Our family business successfully transitioned from the first to the second generation because of the unheralded work of Elizabeth Siebert. In due course, as her sons assumed control, she faded from the scene.
In 1911 Francis (Frank J) opened a second parlour in Wakefield Street, Adelaide, where we still operate today.
Vin eventually closed the Coglin Street premises around 1914, so Frank carried on the family tradition for the second generation.
Frank, still remembered by people in the community today, was known for the kindness he inherited from his father. He is remembered for his wide ranging interests – the Adelaide Hunt Club, acting as MC at fundraisers and dances, treading the boards in the local theatre, his active involvement with the RSL as a veteran of the Boer War – and for his irrepressible personality and mischievous deeds.
I have heard so many stories of Frank’s antics over the years that I wonder, if all the stories are true, how Frank ever had the time to actually conduct a funeral!
One story that always makes me smile is of a funeral being conducted in West Terrace Cemetery on a wet winter’s day. As the mourning party approached the graveside, Frank, who was in the lead, found the side of the grave collapsing underneath him and was unable to prevent himself from slipping into the grave.
As he righted himself, covered in mud, and began to climb out of the grave, he called to the concerned throng “I am the resurrection!”
Frank was eventually joined in the business by his sons – Peter, Francis Jnr, Joseph Jnr and John.
Sadly, though, John was killed in action during the Second World War. Peter, Frank Jnr and Joe Jnr continued to work in the business until Frank Snr died in 1952. With all of Frank’s sons keen to particulate in the future of the business, and succession planning an unknown concept, things got complicated.
Precipitating what sadly became a generational rift, it was Frank Snr’s eldest child, his daughter Trude, who stepped in and determined the course for the third generation.
Frank Snr left three sons and three daughters, all of whom inherited an equal share in the operation. Having secured the backing of her two sisters (and with them half the control), Trude determined that the youngest of the three boys, Joe Jnr, would buy out his brothers’ shares, whatever their plans might have been, and become the public face of the business.
Now heavily in debt, Joe became the manager, with Trude as his ever-present guide and ‘silent’ business partner.
A reluctant funeral director, who had earlier explored a religious vocation, Joe’s real passion was ballet and choreography. Joe’s “personal charm and dedication were infectious” as he gathered together Adelaide’s “Ballet Crazy” in 1938. Despite the wartime shortages, Joe was the driving force behind the creation of Les Ballet Contemporains, Adelaide’s first amateur dance group with their Studio Theatre in Tynte Street, North Adelaide. By day, Joe was manager and funeral director, by night he was passionate performance director, choreographer, producer and dancer.
Proprietorship, though, became more than the role of ‘silent partner’ for Trude when Joe Jnr died unexpectedly in 1969. Joseph’s widow, Betty, now stepped into her late husband’s place and became Trude’s business partner. An understanding developed between Betty and Trude that the business was to be preserved and passed on in due course to Joe’s children, the fourth generation.
Trude became the matriarch for the family, and she and Betty took their responsibility as proprietors seriously. With a manager in place to run the daily operations, Trude and Betty would attend the office regularly “to check on the boys”, enquire after matters requiring their attention and converse with the trusted family accountant.
For Joe’s children, Trude and Betty set the benchmark for integrity and Siebert identity during their 23 years as proprietors together, and remain very much the measure by which I operate the business today.
After Trude’s death in 1992, Betty continued as sole proprietor for a further 15 years, emulating Elizabeth’s Siebert’s earlier example, even after her own son, Bernard, became manager in the mid-1990s. Betty only handed the mantle of ownership on to Bernard in 2007, after 38 years as proprietor. Now, I can’t take too much creative licence in telling stories of my father – he’s still alive to debate their veracity!
After a career in education and disability support, Bernard came to the business later in life. Finding the role of supporting grieving families to be a perfect fit, Bernard reinvigorated the business. He is a shy soul, like his father, but has glimmers of that same Siebert family humour so evident in stories of Frank – pulling into the cemetery after a long cortege drive, the engine of the 1978 hearse caught fire and filled the cabin with smoke. Alighting from the hearse at the graveside, in a cloud of smoke, Bernard asked “Now, is it cremation or burial?”
By 2014 however, Bernard was looking to his own eventual retirement. Nevertheless, I am sure that I startled my father that year with an unexpected call announcing that I wanted to return to the business after a period of raising children. Moreover, given his plans for retirement, I made it clear that I’d be purchasing it, thank you!
So in 2015, I became the fifth generation of the Siebert family to own and operate Frank J Siebert Funeral Directors. Proud to be a fifth generation funeral director, I thought I was the first female funeral director in the family - turns out that trail was blazed by my own great-great-grandmother over a century ago!
Conscious of the massive task of a small family business that needs to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, I decided to take on a business partner to share the load – so I could still be a wife and mother for my precious family.
I first met Peter Caporaso about 25 years ago, when we both started volunteering for a charity supporting disadvantaged children – Edmund Rice Camps SA. ‘Adopted’ by his warm and welcoming Italian family, and continuing to volunteer together for ERC (SA), we have been firm friends ever since. As a lawyer, Peter assisted my family to unravel family trusts and languishing deceased estates – his knowledge of my family tree and their relationships over the generations is often better than my own!
Having employed Peter’s mother, Lina, at Frank J Siebert’s in 2004, Peter has often been called on over the years to assist when we were short staffed, or to untangle a legal matter for a grieving family. It seemed only natural then, with Peter’s background in legal practice and professional standards, and as a very dear friend (our ‘modern’ family), to work with Peter in crafting our business for the next generation.
The Caporaso Family share our dedication to serve the community with integrity and compassion.
My pride in our journey is obvious, so you would understand how delighted I was when my eldest son, not yet a teen, declared – “Mum, when you’re ready to stop working, I’ll take over ...”
Peter and his amazing team at Frank J Siebert helped our family through the worst time in our lives. Peter was so respectful of us as we discussed mum's service, he guided rather than pushed us to the decisions that needed to be made, without ever getting frustrated as we tried to make everything perfect, from the casket to the music. He was very conscious of an affordable option even without us requesting it, and didn't try to 'up sell' us on anything. On the day of the service all of our wishes were carried out perfectly, I cannot fault them. It is easy to see they are a team that work well with each other, as the result of their efforts was seamless.
Nerissa. February 2018.
I would like you to know how very grateful we are for the very professional and caring assistance given to us by all your staff as we prepared for and entered into our last journey with and for our mum. Be very proud that you are maintaining a very fine family tradition on the highest order. We will not hesitate in recommending your company and staff very highly indeed. With very good wishes and sincere thanks.
Trish. May 2018.
Through such a deeply traumatic time in our lives, you have shown great compassion, gentleness, efficient practicality, appropriate guidance, great sensitivity and through it all, a delightful smile and giggle when needed.
Pip. June 2017.
150 years of caring and thoughtful profession Funeral Services to we South Australians in our need at a time that is nearly always a distressful, sad, emotional time in our lives. Your care, concern and of course knowledge of all that is entailed when a person dies has been of great comfort to so very many families thought the years of your ‘story'. Thank you, form so very many South Aussies.
Marie. Nov 2016.
Thank you very mush for your exceptional services carried out in such a caring and sensitive manner for the funeral of our Mum in January of the year. We were very appreciated of your help and guidance. Thank you again.
Naomi. April 2018.