Terry Visconto was checking his cell phone’s voicemail one day recently when he heard an especially intriguing message.
“I got a random voicemail from somebody saying they were so and so from AMS productions,” he recalled.
AMS Pictures produces programming for an HGTV cable television network show called You Live in What?
The show was interested in profiling Visconto and his residence — a funeral home that was previously a convent.
Visconto lives at his family’s funeral home. The Visconto Funeral Home is located at 2031 Vista St. in Rhawnhurst, on the campus of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish.
Sisters of St. Joseph nuns lived in a convent from 1966 to 2000. After that, the building was used for meetings, storage, book sales and even a haunted house, but the parish could not afford to pay for utility bills and repairs.
The Rhawnhurst Civic Association supported the decision by the Rev. Joseph Howarth, the church pastor, to sell the property to the Viscontos in 2010, but only after school principal Joan Stulz assured neighbors that students would be safe from traffic. The school is located on the same site as the funeral home.
Visconto accepted the offer from AMS so neighbors would be able to get a peek inside, even if it is on their television screens.
“It’s important for the community to see what we’ve done to the convent. We’ve made good use of it, like we said we would,” he said. “Everything’s worked perfectly. We’ve made so many friends here. It’s a great neighborhood.”
As part of the TV show’s process, Visconto submitted photos of the space when it was used as a convent, and the renovations that were made to turn it into a funeral home. A four-person camera crew filmed him one day three weeks ago. His brothers Lou Jr. and Joe, sister Jenna, three nieces and a nephew were also part of the filming. His parents, Lou and Terri, were out of town.
The show is tentatively scheduled to air in April.
“It’ll be neat,” Visconto said. “People are curious about what it looks like now.”
On You Live in What?, which debuted as a one-hour special in early 2012, the show features people living in unlikely places, with a focus on conversions that showcase vision and imagination.
The abodes featured so far have included an ice cream factory, a radio station and a slaughterhouse.
At the funeral home, there remains a sign across the top of the entrance that reads, “Church of the Resurrection of Our Lord Sisters’ Residence.”
As Visconto was being filmed during the late morning and early afternoon of Jan. 31, the Resurrection students were enjoying recess right outside the funeral home/living space. Since there are no midday viewings or funeral Masses, the kids can play safely in the school yard without dodging cars.
“It’s worked out really well,” Visconto said.
The two-story structure includes a basement that houses, among other things, Resurrection’s seasonal flowers.
Visconto, 38, has a private entrance and a couple of parking spaces adjacent to the school yard.
“You’d have no idea you’re even in a funeral home,” he said.
The living space is on the second floor. It includes a master bedroom and bathroom that once belonged to the Mother Superior. There’s a living room, dining room, kitchen, two spare bedrooms, laundry room, office and another 1½ bathrooms.
The funeral home is on the first floor. It features a large room for viewings, along with a show room, dining room, living room, coffee room, coat room and remembrance room in a former chapel.
“It’s a very sacred place,” Visconto said.
The family got a good deal on the building, but needed to make a massive overhaul.
“It was a much bigger project than we planned on, but we wanted to do it right,” Visconto said.
Visconto is not fazed by living in a funeral home.
“I’ve been around the business since I was five years old. It’s nothing to me,” he said.
Visconto’s full-time job is vice president of operations for The ACI Group, a Baltimore-based information technology staffing company with a Philadelphia office. He can work from an office in Center City or at home.
After a viewing, he can help put things back in order.
“I don’t have to go somewhere nine-to-five every day, so it makes sense for me to be here. It’s good to have a Visconto living here,” he said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org