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Iconic plumbing company closes its doors

D.W.Callahan & Sons, Inc., started serving the area's plumbing and heating system needs in 1931. After more than 80 years of service, the Oak Park-based company closed its doors April 30.

Ironically, on that day, Daniel Callahan Jr., 75, son of the founder and owner of the company, passed away.

Helen Callahan, daughter of Dan Callahan Sr., and sister of Dan Callahan Jr., said it was during the Depression that her father, known for his “down to earth” manor and a special talent for making a person laugh, started the business in 1928. He was 18 when he attended Washburne Trade School, Helen said.

He soon became a licensed master plumber and a member of the Chicago Journeymen Plumber’s Union, Local 130, UA.

He went to work for Wagner & Sons, then started his own plumbing business out of his home with his brother, Master Plumber John E. Callahan, and Dan's wife, Helen, as secretary.

Daniel Callahan, Sr. purchased the building at 7056 Roosevelt Road from Colombo Statuary, which then became the home of D.W. Callahan Plumbing, Heating and Hardware.

Helen related a story that typified the company's business ethic.

“In the 1960s, Dan Callahan came out to fix a plumbing problem in a customer's Oak Park home, which turned out to be minor," Helen said. "Because the customer was obligated to pay for a service call, Dan, Sr., suggested that he look at all the other sink drains and fix those were not draining as fast as they should."

Callahan Plumbing also did much of the plumbing work for the village of Oak Park. Helen said her father often went out on a cold freezing winter night to fix an underground broken pipe in the village.

"Some of the Callahan’s private customers were struggling families and the Callahan brothers empathized with their situation and these customers were not charged for the work they did," said Helen, who retired from Komarek School in North Riverside after 39 years as an elementary school teacher.

Eventually, John Callahan extended the plumbing business to the town of Elmhurst, where he had built his own home. As time went on, two of Daniel Callahan’s sons, Thomas Joseph Sr., and Daniel Webster, Jr., began learning the business from the bottom up while working in the plumbing shop during their early school years and on the weekends.

In the '60s and '70s, sprinkler systems were becoming very popular. Seeing the trend, Tom, Sr., and Dan, Jr., worked and trained together with Weathermatic and Mueller Mist to learn the ins and outs of sprinkler systems.

Among the countless homes and businesses the company served throughout the Chicago area, some of the more notable jobs were the installations of the Wrigley Field sprinkler system, the football field at Oak Park-River Forest High School and Scoville Park in Oak Park.

In 1991, Daniel Callahan, Sr. died after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Tom. Sr., and Dan Callahan, Jr. carried on with much success from the '70s and on into the next century, Helen said. In 2005, Tom Callahan, Sr., Dan, Jr.,’s , partner in the business, died.

Helen said she has heard from many customers after news of the closing was made public.

"Karen Scafidi, one of their customers, said they had Callahan Plumbing for years and years, and they were so good at what they did, and they will be missed," Helen said. "The owner of Bush Upholstery also told me, "Call Callahan they're the best around."

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