Tester & Jones Profiles
With more than 25 years of experience as a funeral director, Stephen – who was born and brought up in Crowborough - takes great pride in the personal care and attention he gives to each and every funeral.
He has always enjoyed being outdoors and, after leaving school, trained as a landscape gardener. This led him to be asked if he could lend a hand fitting memorials by a funeral director – as the skills he had gathered working with landscaping were transferable. As time went by, Stephen was offered a full-time role with the funeral director and it was there he met Glenys Jones, with whom he set up Tester & Jones in 2004.
“We wanted to offer a funeral service which was accessible to people, welcoming and not scary, modern but built on traditional values,” says Stephen. “We are extremely grateful to the people of Crowborough for having faith in us and supporting us, particularly at the beginning. We never fail to feel proud when a family asks us to look after a funeral for them.”
Stephen is incredibly proud of Tester & Jones’ independent status and, over the years, has got involved with SAIF (The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors), both on a local level and nationally too. He is also keen to support professional development in the industry and, to this end, helps to mark papers for the Independent Funeral Directors (IFD) College.
Stephen has never lost his love of the outdoors and likes playing golf and cycling, as well as spending time away in his motor home.
Glenys, who moved to Crowborough when she was 10 years old, has been a funeral director for more than 25 years and clients appreciate her caring and professional approach to organising funerals.
Glenys was inspired to become funeral director after her Mother died and she witnessed first hand the support they give to families at such a difficult time. She saw an advert for a secretarial role at a local firm and was successful. Over the next few years, Glenys moved up to become manager of the firm.
Then, with the business she was working for in the process of being sold, Glenys made the decision – along with former colleague Stephen Tester – to launch Tester & Jones.
Fifteen years later she says: “We were and still are a team. Both Stephen and I really care about the community here in Crowborough – so we wanted to support the people here and we wanted to offer traditional care and attention to our families.”
Glenys is particularly proud of the Tester & Jones Bereavement Support Group, which she helped to launch 10 years ago and which now has more than 100 members.
“We have an amazing group of people and it’s evolved so that existing members are fantastic at welcoming and supporting newer members,” she explains. “Some lovely friendships have developed; they comfort each other and offer support at times when it’s needed.”
When she’s not at work, Glenys is involved with Crowborough and District Lions and also enjoys travelling.
Jo Walsh joined Tester & Jones in September 2015. She was initially employed as the firm’s bookkeeper/payroll clerk/management accountant. Her role involves keeping the company’s accounts up to date, producing monthly management reports for the directors, running the month end payroll for all the staff and ensuring all suppliers are paid and invoicing has been done.
Since joining Tester & Jones I have completed and passed the Health & Safety for Funeral Staff course run by the Independent Funeral College (IFD) and the Foundation Funeral Practitioner course. This has enabled me to help families with all of the funeral arrangements of their loved one and support them at their time of grieving. I also assist Stephen with the memorial side of the business which involves helping families choose the right memorial for their loved one, providing them with proofs of the memorial and applying to the relevant church or council to have the memorial placed. During the week, and some weekends, I assist with the out of hours on-call service which involves talking to families and arranging bringing their loved one into our care. I advise families of the process of registering of the death and answering any queries that they might have.
Jo adds: “I also make tea and coffee.”
When Jo joined Tester & Jones, she hadn’t worked at a funeral directors’ before and ‘wasn’t sure what to expect’ but she says Tester & Jones is a very friendly place to work.
“Everyone here is so warm, kind, sympathetic and friendly,” Jo says. “Families come to us at a very upsetting and vulnerable time and they leave with the reassurance that their lost loved one will be well looked after and any wishes that they want for the funeral service will be fulfilled in the best way possible.”
When she’s not at work, Jo enjoys working on her allotment growing a variety of fruit and vegetables and looking after her chickens. She also loves spending time with her ‘very large’ German Shepherd called Maska, particularly enjoying walks on the Ashdown Forest.
The first person families will speak to when they come through our door or give us a call will usually be our Canadian colleague, Lorna Ashworth, who joined the team in October 2017, having been involved with the national governing body of the Church of England – the General Synod.
Her role primarily involves assisting families in planning and arranging a fitting farewell for their loved one.
“Part of this includes practical administration,” says Lorna. “The other, the privilege of supporting people through what can feel like a suspended reality from the time someone passes away until the time of the funeral. I genuinely enjoy the opportunity to serve people, helping them to navigate their way through this initial stage of loss.”
Asked what makes Tester & Jones special, Lorna explains: “I have been most impressed by the commitment of Tester & Jones to every family that comes through the door. Glenys and Stephen have set the bar high in the industry - not settling for second best. This extends outward to their involvement in and support of the local community.”
When not at work, Lorna loves being a part of her church and reading books on theological subjects. Other than that, her husband, three children and the family dog keep her on her toes.
Funeral arranger Sharon Middleton joined us, having worked within the bereavement sector for five years, most recently within bereavement services at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium in Tunbridge Wells. While working there, Sharon studied for certificates in cemetery and crematorium management and also attended the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) education seminars and annual convention.
Sharon was drawn to working in the bereavement sector, after training to become a celebrant.
“During that time, my eyes were opened to the choices people have when arranging their loved one’s funerals,” she explains. “I feel passionately about families being able to have the funeral they and their loved one wants, one that is representative of the person that has died, so that it feels personal and not prescribed”.
Sharon’s role with Tester & Jones involves guiding and supporting families organising a loved one’s funeral.
“I meet families to discuss the type of service they would like to create and assist them in whatever way they require,” she explains. “Each family, and their loved one, is unique and, with every service I am involved in, I have this in mind.”
She continues: “I would be confident to recommend Tester & Jones, as they are very much about serving families. Nothing is too much trouble, if the family want something specific, they will do whatever they can to make it happen. They do not insist that things are done in any set way and are flexible in every aspect of what they do; they set themselves very high standards to adhere to.”
Outside of work, Sharon is passionate about horticulture and enjoys growing vegetables, herbs and flowers.
“I love being out in nature, and like to spend time walking, and visiting gardens, and am a member of the National Trust,” she adds. “I also like to read, practice Qigong and yoga to relax.”