Joseph J. DellaVecchia Jr., 64, owner of DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith & Boyd Funeral Home in West Chester, died of heart failure Sunday at his home there.

In 1977, Mr. DellaVecchia realized a dream to own his own business when he purchased the Lawrence J. Reilly Funeral Home on North Church Street in West Chester. Before establishing himself in the then-rural area, he assisted other funeral directors to support his young family, said a son, Joseph III.

The funeral home prospered, and eventually merged with Smith Funeral Home and Boyd Funeral Home in West Chester. He also owned the Chester County Crematory.

"He felt privileged to serve his community with respect and compassion," his son said.

As a child, Mr. DellaVecchia was impressed by the professionals who handled arrangements for deaths in his family and decided he wanted to be a funeral director, his son said.

While attending Upper Darby High School, Mr. DellaVecchia assisted Damian Perri, a funeral director in Upper Darby, and later worked at the Oliver Bair Co. in Center City, becoming its youngest arrangement counselor, his son said.

Mr. DellaVecchia attended St. Joseph's College and in 1971 graduated from the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service in New York. He then interned at Goldstein's Funeral Home in Philadelphia. From 1974 until he moved to West Chester, he was a partner with Perri in Upper Darby.

"He was very outgoing and was a great storyteller, and people gravitated to him," his son said. "We called him the king because he was always surrounded by his court."

Joseph III and his brothers Michael and Ronald joined their father in the funeral business. Though his health was declining the last several years, "he was still the boss," Joseph III said.

Mr. DellaVecchia served on the board of the West Chester Senior Center, and was a past president and founding board member of the Neighborhood Hospice Agencies. He was a Mason and active in several organizations, including the Rotary Club, the Sons of Italy, and the Knights of Columbus.

Since 1966, Mr. DellaVecchia had been married to Kristine Nelson DellaVecchia. They enjoyed summer vacations with their family in Ocean City, N.J., and weekends at their home in the Poconos. In recent years, they visited Italy, Alaska, and the Caribbean, Joseph III said.

In addition to his wife and sons, Mr. DellaVecchia is survived by another son, Damian; his mother, Angelina; two sisters; and nine grandchildren.

Friends may call from 4 to 9 p.m. today and from 8 to 10 a.m. tomorrow at DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith & Boyd Funeral Home, 410 N. Church St., West Chester. A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Agnes Church, 233 W. Gay St., West Chester. Burial will be in the church cemetery.