In the next coming weeks we’re doing Q & A sessions with funeral directors from across New Zealand to tell us about themselves and their business.
We caught up with Hazel James, the manager at Windsor Funerals on Auckland’s Northshore, to ask her to provide an insight into the life of a funeral director.
When did you decide you wanted to be a funeral director? How did you get into it?
My father started as a funeral director on the North Shore when they arrived from the UK in 1965 so funeral directing has been always been a part of my life. I always knew Dad took care of dead people and our family life revolved around his oncall duty work. I used to work in the funeral home on the school holidays when I became a teenager and after my parents bought the company I joined the family business full time. I have always loved people so the job has come very natural to me.
Tell us about your business?
The business I manage and work for is Windsor Funerals. We are a social enterprise company and understand that every family has different needs and that no two funerals are ever the same. As we are a not for profit, we can specifically tailor a farewell to meet a family’s budget. Our purpose is to serve the community through much fairer pricing of funeral services than is currently available, while still providing the highest quality of care and professionalism.
What makes your business different?
We are NZ owned, unlike the majority of funeral homes across Auckland. As we are not driven by profit margins we have the ability to assist families no matter how much they can afford to have a truly special and meaningful funeral. We are also one of the few funeral homes that can offer 24 hour viewing if families require it.
What do you love most about being a funeral director?
I love caring for people and I especially love listening to the stories of the people we are caring for. Everyone has a story and I find each one interesting.
What are some of the biggest changes you’re seeing in the funeral industry? There has been a big move from a big traditional funeral, to a small intimate farewells, especially with the arrival of COVID. People are looking at a service that is more personal and meaningful for them and their loved one rather than what has always been done so many families are moving away from the traditional style. Technology also plays a major role in a service now with most being livestreamed whether they are a small service or a large traditional one. Now our company has its own Vimeo channel and we often take our iPad with us on a service to record or stream it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no typical day at Windsor Funerals and that is one of the wonderful things about the job. Our weeks vary a lot and no two days are ever the same. They can be full of meeting families, transfers from hospitals and rest homes, funerals, organizing monumental work, laundry, maintenance around the building or getting out and about connecting with our community.
What qualities do you need to be a funeral director?
To be a good funeral director you need to be very organized, a great listener, a good communicator, patient, creative, with good attention to detail. You also need physical strength, be a great multi tasker and also be able to go with the flow as you never know what will be thrown at you at the last minute.
How do you unwind from work? I love sitting in the spa pool under the stars with a nice glass of red wine.
What three things can’t you live without?
My family and friends, great food, and my cell phone (I love to stay connected to family and friends).
Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about becoming a funeral director?
It is not easy work and the hours can be difficult but it is a very rewarding and satisfying to assist people when they are at their most vulnerable. Try and see if you can volunteer for work experience at a funeral company to see if the job is truly what you understand it to be.
Get in touch with Windsor Funerals