Funeral Directors Category: East of England
Nick Armstrong. Once upon a time an electrician in Newcastle. When work started to dry up, he started to look for something else. “I knew that it had to be a job dealing with people, not stuck in a factory.” At the back of Nick’s mind was the death of his Dad two years before and the lasting memory of what an important job it is that funeral directors do. He found a vacancy as a trainee funeral director with the Co-op and never looked back. Out of death interests include paragliding, paramotoring, kitesurfing and diving. “I know only too well how short life can be,” says Nick, and with hobbies like these that’s just as well. “I have a VW camper that I use quite a lot, especially in the summer. I love to travel and see the world.”
Likes to cut a dash in trad FD attire, all staff in dark green ties. Will happily notch down to light grey suits if you have a ‘no black’ dress code. If you want casual they’ll do casual (it can be amazingly hard to hard to find an FD who will). Mercedes hearse and limousine. “We have used a Volvo estate as a following car/hearse and flower car. I have used my camper van for the funeral of a young person who had one while travelling in Australia.” Will show you all the other options: horse drawn, motorbike, trikes, lorries etc. If he hires one of these for you, he won’t charge you for his own. You’d be horrified how many do.
In Nick’s words, “It is a privilege to be able to really make a difference and help someone through one of the worst times in their life. There is nothing like it. The friends you make and the thank you cards and letters you receive make you realise just how much you have helped.” Loves the way families are becoming more involved in arranging the funeral “like it was before the time of the funeral director when whole communities used to get involved and help out.” Reckons the role of the FD to be more important than ever now that there are so many options available to families. “We can help guide the family so they give their loved one the personal send off they would want.”
Total flexibility and unique ‘little touches’. Says Nick, “We have been told on many occasions that we are human and approachable, quite unlike other FDs in the area. We will move heaven and earth to give a family the personal service they have come to expect from us. It’s a challenge sometimes but its one we all love.” Great believer that only an independent FD can do this: “We need to change. Funeral directors have been stuck in their ways for too long now and times are changing. Those willing to change will seize the opportunities; those that won’t or can’t will disappear thereby changing our profession, which will ultimately have an enormous benefit to the families who, as some funeral directors fail to realise, are the ones that we work for and who really matter.” Highly committed to continuous improvement: “I honestly feel that no-one can touch us or even come close. That may sound big headed but we are constantly looking at how we do things and how we can do it better so our training never stops.”
- Your call will be answered by either Nick, Wendy Garnham (manager) or Julianna Stubbs (funeral arranger). Yes to home visits, but suggest you go to them where there’ll be no interruptions and everyone is on hand to help out. No to routine embalming, but they’ll suggest it if they think it a good idea. Nick is a qualified embalmer. Same sex person to lay out the body if you wish: Wendy does females. Happy to serve all ethnic groups. Very happy if you want to come in and wash the body. No problem whatever with working with home funeralists. Outstanding celebrant, Jo Donlevy (jodonlevy.com), on the books if you want a non- or semi-religious funeral. Nick and his men always attend the ceremony (very unusual, this, and much to be applauded.) Celebrated for their hymn singing. Unusually excellent website, full of useful information. a superb assortment of useful info you can download and even a lively blog—the only undertaker’s blog in the UK. Direct cremation price: £1850 all-in.
Warm, welcoming, good humoured. “He’s a lovely man,” says a client. Infinitely adaptable. They all love their work here, and that means looking after you as well as they can. This is a young, forward-looking enterprise, full of vitality and emotional intelligence. Extremely well spoken of by all who have used it.