Two funeral directors have been honoured in the queen’s New Year Honours List, with Helen Wathall of Wathall’s in Derby and Tony Rowland of Croydon’s Rowland Brothers and funeral planning firm Golden Leaves both receiving an MBE.
Wathall, 52, has worked in the funeral profession since she was 18 and was made managing director when she was 29, taking over the company reigns upon the death of her father. The company has won several awards for its many initiatives, which include free bereavement groups, support for a wide range of charities, and setting up bespoke funeral services for fans of Derby County Football Club.
Rowland, 80, is still working in the profession since beginning as an apprentice at the age of 15. Four decades ago, Rowland set up a bereavement aftercare service for all individuals and families using his services at no extra cost. Rowland’s company has also dedicated a lot of work towards creating a worldwide network of support for the repatriation of British nationals who die abroad.
Wathall said: “I was in total shock when the letter arrived to tell me that I had been nominated for an MBE. Over the generations, the Wathall family has always been part of the local community whether that is leading Derby’s war effort in the Forties to being an active member of the local business community to action improvements in St Peters Quarter.
“I am therefore immensely honoured to be recognised in this way – particularly as it comes at the close of Wathall’s 160th anniversary year.”
Barry Floyd, managing director of Golden Leaves, added: “Tony is thoroughly deserving of his award through his initiatives to bring local communities together, whilst offering continued support for families in their time of need. A real community champion, Tony embodies the compassion and commitment that the funeral service industry strives to maintain, and I am proud to work alongside him.”