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 but is now training to do funeral arrangements as well. 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.
“In addition to this, I help out answering the phones, assist with producing Order of Services for funerals, creating online tributes on our website and keeping the donations updated, ensuring the various charities get the funds raised and informing the families of how much was donated in memory of their loved ones,” she says. “I also assist with on-call at weekends, 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 has just joined a gym and also loves spending time with her ‘very large’ German Shepherd called Maska, particularly enjoying walks on the Ashdown Forest.
Dawn is a funeral arranger, so I take first calls when someone’s loved one passes away, either face to face in the office or over the phone, and clarify the deceased’s name, date of birth, date of death, where they died and whether the doctor has given the OK for release of the person into our care. I will then arrange for someone to pick the deceased up and then begin to help the family with the funeral arrangements, including all the legal paperwork.
The arrangements include securing the date of either a cremation service or a burial service, the venue for the funeral, the minister or celebrant, the organist (if required), coffin type, newspaper notices (if required), whether they require a limousine, ordering flowers (if help is requested), organising the order of service to be prepared and printed and what they would like done with the ashes once collected.
If the family agree, I input the details of the funeral and the name of the chosen charity (if desired) onto a tribute page on our website, through a company called Much Loved, which enables people to also donate online to the charity in memory of the deceased. All the arrangements need to be written up, put in the diary, entered onto our white board, written onto the arrangement form and once the minister/celebrant has visited the family, I then will organise for the music to be prepared on the sound system at the crematorium or on CD at a church, or with the organist.
Throughout this, communication is key, making sure that everyone in the office is informed so we all know what is going on at each stage while the deceased is in our care. I take care of any administration that is needed for the funerals that I am working on.
I will also answer any phone calls and redirect them to the relevant parties, whether it be in connection with a funeral, an ashes interment or a memorial stone and prepare funeral packs ready for the next funeral.
Here we introduce you to our Canadian colleague Lorna - who is often the first person families will speak to when they come through our door or give us a call.
When did you start working with Tester & Jones and what's your background in terms of a career?
I started working with Tester & Jones last October and this is a new chapter for me. For the past 12 years I have been heavily involved with the national governing body of the Church of England – the General Synod and its various legislative bodies. My degree and MA in theology have supported this work and interest in the engagement between faith and the ‘public square.’
What does your role with Tester & Jones involve?
My role primarily involves assisting families in planning and arranging a fitting farewell for their loved one. Part of this includes practical administration. 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.