When the funeral company that Jim was working for sold to the Co-Op the life of the whole family changed. When Chris suggested opening their own funeral business it was clear that they both needed to be involved which meant Chris giving up her job as a nurse and retraining. Financing a business which has huge and expensive infrastructure meant selling the family home, moving the entire family from Tunbridge Wells and a school move for their youngest child. It was an enormous gamble but one which they both felt was worthwhile.
The first few years were hard, reduced income and for Chris, a lot of learning whilst Jim’s building and carpentry skills were invaluable in making the business premises fit for purpose and the apartment into a comfortable and welcoming home. When Jim was diagnosed with a recurring cancer in 1990 Chris took over the entire operation to ensure that the business continued. Their eldest daughter Jo joined the company 27 years ago and has now taken over from Chris as Managing Director.
Chris and Jim have both served as National President of the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, Chris in 2006 and Jim in 2011. They are thrilled that Jo has been elected to serve as President next year in 2021.
Jim is a Freemason and member and President of the Angel Indoor Bowls Club, while Chris is an active member of Tonbridge Methodist Church, Rotary club of Tonbridge and a social member of the Angel bowls club. Chris also retains some contact with the profession as Principal of the Independent Funeral Directors College. She also heads up Abbey’s bereavement charity, Friends Together, which supports over 100, mainly elderly, people.
Chris says that the traumatic and emotional aspects of the work were greatly lessened by having a spouse engaged in the same profession and who understood the challenges together with a strong faith and a good sense of humour. The latter is demonstrated in the attached photograph which was taken when Jim’s new top hat arrived two sizes too big. It remains one of the couples favourite images of their working life together.