A Derbyshire funeral director who went from a summer job mowing the grass at Heanor Cemetery to supporting families to say goodbye to their loved ones has now reached his 40th year in the role.
Mark Worley, Funeral Director at Central England Co-op Funeralcare based in Ripley, said it had been a ‘privilege’ to support families for so many years, although he admitted the last few months have been one of the most challenging periods of his long career.
The 57-year-old from Heanor said he fell into the career after building links with local funeral directors when doing summer jobs at the local cemetery and after getting his foot in the door, has never looked back.
Mark has now received his 40-year long service award and he explained how he found himself working within the funeral industry.
He said: “In 1979 and 1980 when I was a sixth form student I worked at the cemetery during the summer and at that time the two local funeral directors used to come in with interment notices.
“One day I was talking to my colleagues in the office about not getting the exam results I had wanted to go on and study further and that I might have to find myself a job. Norman Frost, funeral home Manager from the Co-op, came in with an interment notice and my colleague asked if he had any jobs going for me and he said, ‘actually I have’.
“It was a role at a funeral home in Langley Mill where they wanted someone to spray and line the coffins and collect and prepare the deceased from hospital. I didn’t give a great interview to be honest, but Norman vouched for me, so they decided to give me a go and the rest as you might say is history.
“It was September 1980 that I started there as a Funeral Assistant. In 1984 I had the opportunity to study for and be awarded the Diploma in Funeral Directing and then in 1992 the opportunity came up for a trainee Funeral Director role and I went for it.
“I had the opportunity to work in the management side over the years, but I wanted to stay on the frontline doing the arrangements and dealing with families as that is more me.
“I’ve covered a lot of local branches across Derbyshire and at the moment I look after our funeral homes in Ripley and Belper, two of the busiest in the area.”
Mark, who has been married to his wife Bev for 36 years this year and has two sons Matthew, 30 and Daniel, 26, said it had been a ‘rewarding’ career and he is thankful to the support of his team and from senior management, particularly during the uncertain times of the last few months.
He said: “The role has changed since I started. You used to be just a funeral conductor really, but you are now more a funeral home manager. It is a rewarding job. You get one chance to get it right for families and make sure everything is in hand.
“I could not do my role without the support of my Senior Funeral Director Jennifer Roome, our senior team and all my other colleagues. You have to have a good team to help you do the best job you can, and that has never been as important as the last few months.
“It has certainly been challenging but we’ve had to adapt to things and go with the flow, but it has certainly been difficult for families having to cope with limited numbers and not being able to celebrate their loved one’s lives in quite the same way, but we have worked hard to make sure they are supported as much as possible.
“I am very proud to have done what I’ve done for so long. Becoming a Funeral Director when I first started work with the Coop was something that I wanted to work towards, so in 1992 when I made it, it was a really proud moment for me.”