Muhammad Ali to be buried in Boston-made casket

The coffin bearing the remains of Muhammad Ali was loaded into a hearse.
The coffin bearing the remains of Muhammad Ali was loaded into a hearse. (Adrees Latif/REUTERS)

When boxing legend Muhammad Ali is laid to rest in Louisville, Ky., Friday, he will be buried in a solid mahogany casket designed and manufactured at a small factory in East Boston.

New England Casket Co., founded by an Italian cabinet maker in the 1930s, makes about 30 of the high-end caskets a year, according to Louis Tobia Jr., the third generation of his family to run the company. The solid-wood walls are thicker – 4 inches – and the expanse is wider – 28 inches – than a traditional casket, with the handles tucked into the base for a more seamless design. The construction takes about three weeks, compared with just a few days for most caskets, to allow time for multiple coats of lacquer, and hand-buffing and polishing in between.


It’s the company’s signature casket, called the Concord – after the New England town, like most of the company’s caskets – and retails for as much as $25,000.

Numerous celebrities have been buried in the casket, Tobia said, as have many of his own family members.

Tobia sells 10,000-12,000 caskets a year to manufacturers and distributors, and often doesn’t know when his products are being used. But Bill Simpson, president of the North Carolina company that bought it, thought Tobia would want to know. Muslims usually aren’t embalmed or buried in caskets, Simpson noted, but Ali’s high-profile memorial service, which took place a week after he died, required both.

Katie Johnston can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.