Tester & Jones Profiles
With more than 30 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 has been a funeral director for more than 35 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 given 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 Funeral Services.
Twenty 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 Group (the BGs), which she helped to launch 15 years ago and now has 90 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 most needed.”
Members enjoy trips to the theatre and Christmas markets, visits to gardens, meals out and holidays away. At the meetings, there are a variety of speakers.
When she’s not at work, Glenys is a member of The Rotary Club of Crowborough and also enjoys travelling.
Jo Walsh joined Tester & Jones Funeral Services in September 2015, initially as our bookkeeper/payroll clerk/management accountant. That 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. However, her role has grown.
“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,” Jo explains. “This has enabled me to help families with all of the funeral arrangements of their loved one. I also work with Stephen on the memorial side of the business, as well as assisting with the out of hours on-call service which involves talking to families and arranging for their loved one to be brought into our care."
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 it’s 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 they want for the funeral service will be fulfilled in the best way possible.”
When she’s not at work, Jo enjoys gardening - growing a variety of fruit and vegetables - and looking after her chickens. She also loves spending time with her ‘very large’ dog called Diesel, particularly enjoying walks at Walshes Park and the beach.
Sharon Middleton joined us in 2021, 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 as funeral arranger with Tester & Jones has evolved to encompass funeral conducting and assisting Stephen and Glenys as their Branch Manager. Sharon has also studied for and passed the Independent Funeral Directors College (IFD) Foundation Funeral Practitioner Course.
“I feel extremely lucky to be working at Tester and Jones; they are a great team of people to work with,” says explains. “We are all very supportive of each other but also caring and committed to our families. We all understand the importance of each and every funeral and much planning goes in to make sure we get it right for the family. I feel fortunate to have found a team who are so positive about what they do.”
Sharon continues: “The wishes of the family are the priority and if a family would like something specific, we will do whatever we can to make it happen. Each family and their loved one is unique and with every service I am involved in, I have this in mind.”
Outside of work, Sharon is passionate about horticulture and enjoys growing vegetables, herbs and flowers.
“I love being out in nature; Ilike 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.”
Kim Eastwood joined our team in 2021 as a Funeral Arranger, having previously worked at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium in Tunbridge Wells as a Bereavement Services Assistant, where she dealt with the cremation paperwork, along with arranging and attending interments and burials, and organising memorial plaques.
In her role at Tester & Jones, Kim says she enjoys helping our families and also learning different aspects of the bereavement sector.
“Families come to us when they are at their lowest and we are there to help them, guiding them through the process and shouldering some of the responsibility,” she says. “Walking through our door for the first time is a big step for many people, particularly if this is their first funeral. Every family is individual and we help them to create and prepare the service the family want for their loved one or their loved one wanted. We pride ourselves on being welcoming, friendly and caring.”
Whilst looking after our families, Kim has also studied and completed the Foundation – Funeral Practitioner Course, delivered by the IFD (Independent Funeral Directors’) College.
When she’s not at work, Kim has a variety of hobbies including fitcamp, walking, reading, socialising with friends and enjoying cross-stitch, diamond art and knitting. She also has an interest in alternative therapies and is a qualified Reiki practitioner.
Joanne Welfare has joined our team here at Tester & Jones Funeral Services as a funeral arranger in the summer of 2022.
She began her career in corporate banking in London, while has most recently worked in childcare, focusing on special needs.
Joanne knew Tester & Jones from living in Crowborough for 30 years and has used our services in the past.
“I knew I wanted a change in my career but wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do,” says Joanne. “It was actually at my brother’s funeral, while chatting to Stephen, that I suddenly thought I’d like to do something in the funeral business myself. After that, a job came up and I applied.”
Since she’s joined, Joanne has been learning about what’s involved with arranging a funeral, while also helping to organise some ashes interments.
“I think quite a few people were surprised that I wanted to work in funerals, thinking it would be a bit morbid but, honestly, it’s such a lovely team environment here,” says Joanne. “Also, it’s just so interesting, as there’s so much involved in organising a funeral and everything associated with that. I’m being so supported here to learn and the team are always happy to answer any questions I might have. It’s a wonderful new challenge and everyone has been so lovely.”
Having already been one of the families which Tester & Jones has supported, Joanne says: “They were so supportive and there to take the heavy weight away from us. They are always ready to go that extra mile to make the service the way a family wants for their particular ‘goodbye’.”
She continues: “Now I’m working here, I can see how much everyone cares for the family while, in addition, how the whole team itself is supported.”
When she’s not at work, Joanne enjoys walking, yoga and socialising with friends. She also loves travelling and has been to Italy recently, with a trip to Morocco on the horizon.