Tamworth Co-op Memorial Carol Service for the bereaved has reported a record turn out. Hundreds of people attended a candlelit service St Editha’s Church to remember their loved ones at Christmas.
Now in its seventh year, the service organised by the funeral division gave families the chance to honour those they miss, while celebrating the start of Christmas.
Among the many remembered was Frederick Stokes, a veteran of the First World War. For nearly a century the Tamworth soldier lay in an unmarked grave until last November when the Tamworth Co-op provided a headstone bearing his name and regiment.
The grave in Amington Cemetery is now a resting place for the private who survived multiple gas attacks only to die months after returning home to Tamworth.
Two of his relatives were in the congregation to hear Glen Speak, deputy manager of the funeral division, recount the story of the 23-year-old who had just married his sweetheart Grace when he went off to war.
Tamworth Mayor Ken Norchi and his mother and consort, Jean, also attended the service conducted by vicar of Tamworth, Reverend Alan Gordon.
A Scottish piper welcomed guests at the door. Every visitor received a goodie bag which included a candle, chocolates, notebook, mini torch, raffle tickets and pack of remembrance wildflower seeds to plant in their gardens.
Amanda Woodward, general manager of the Tamworth Co-op funeral service, gave the opening address, saying it was wonderful to see so many new and familiar faces.
A bugler played the Last Post, and Paddy MacGowan walked up the aisle playing his bagpipes amid the sea of lit candles.
Children from the Tame Valley Co-operative Learning Trust Choir also performed in the event. Funeral staff read poems, some on a Christmas theme, and others offering words of comfort to the bereaved.
Bringing the evening to a close, Tamworth Co-op chief executive Julian Coles said: “In a few days’ time we will be celebrating our 130th anniversary. I think this service shows we still care very deeply for the local community as we look to our future while remembering our past.”
Afterwards drinks and mince pies were served. The Tamworth Co-op funeral division won a major national award in 2016 in recognition of the support it offers to the bereaved.
The division’s Woodville branch also held a memorial service for the bereaved to remember their relatives and friends for the first time.
Dozens of remembrance candles were lit during the service at Woodville Methodist Church. Each person received a heart box, a red carnation and a gift bag including wildflower seeds to plant in their garden as a reminder of their loved one, as well as chocolates and a pocket diary.