History & Staff
We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession, dedicated to excellence in service, and have the highest integrity.
Shirley Brothers Mortuaries has been serving residents of Indianapolis
for the entire 20th century. The origins of this family-owned mortuary go back to the 19th century
in central Indiana. Ottie N. Shirley, the founder of the company, was born in 1873, in Hendricks County,
just west of Indianapolis.
O.N. Shirley grew up in the Brownsburg area and worked on his father's farm as a young man. He also gained experience working in a Brownsburg funeral parlor, and when he came to Indianapolis in 1897, he worked as a circulation manager at the old Indianapolis Sentinel.
In 1898, Ottie N. Shirley founded the O.N. Shirley Funeral Home at 2755 East Washington Street in Indianapolis. As a rapidly growing city, funeral homes and mortuaries were opening in all quadrants of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. O.N. Shirley was joined by his brothers Luther and Arley between 1909 and 1913.
In 1919, the three brothers incorporated the business as Shirley Brothers Company, Inc., and by the mid-1920's, Shirley Brothers was the largest funeral establishment in Indianapolis. The 1920's brought about several changes for Shirley Brothers. The company closed its Rural and Washington Street chapel and relocated to 10th and Illinois Streets, and also opened a chapel on West Michigan Street. In the 1930s, Luther Shirley's former home at 5377 East Washington Street became the company's Irving Hill Chapel.
O.N. Shirley's son, Walter L. Shirley, joined the business in 1927, following graduation from the University of Chicago. Walter Shirley and his brother Kenneth were the second generation of the family to be involved in the business. O.N. Shirley died in 1945, and his brother Luther died in 1968. Walter and Kenneth added the Drexel Chapel at 10th and Drexel on the city's east side during the 1950's, while the West Michigan Street Chapel closed in the 1960's.
Walter Shirley was remembered by his grandsons as a unique individual. His interests outside the family-owned funeral home included the presidency of Shirley Engraving Company and Mortuary Supply Company. With his brother, he was a co-founder of Wal-Ken Properties, Inc., a real estate and automotive leasing firm. He was also a co-founder and first president of the Lions Cancer Control Fund, a co-founder of the Lions Eye Bank and a district governor of Lions Club.Walter Shirley founded the Flower of the Month Guild Inc. and was a commander of the Hoosier Power Squadron. His book on celestial navigation is still consulted by Midwest sailors.
Walter Shirley's sons Arthur and David both joined the business, as did Kenneth's son Stephen. They built the Washington Memorial Chapel on East Washington Street and moved there from the location at 10th and Illinois in the 1980's.
By 1986, the Fishers-Castleton Chapel was added and the fourth generation of Shirley's had entered the business.
Today, Frederick and James represent the fourth generation active in the family business on a daily basis. They are grandsons of Walter L. Shirley, who served the firm from 1927 until his death in 1986. Jim Shirley says Shirley Brothers has prospered for over 116 years in Indianapolis by adhering to a simple philosophy, "What we do is help people say goodbye."