'So proud' - Funeral director retiring after 30 years helping families
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Bus driver to funeral director is not a commonly-trod career path - but it's worked for Alistair Parker.
The 67-year-old, from Ipswich, has been helping to prepare send-offs for the town's loved ones for the past 27 and a half years and is now preparing to retire.
Mr Parker, who drove buses for 20 years, got into the business after looking for a change in career and noticing the funeral corteges on his daily routes.
"Every time I met a funeral cortege while I was driving the buses I always gave way to them," said Mr Parker.
"I always thought to myself 'what a wonderful job, I would love to be able to do that'.
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"With all the shift work I got a bit stressed, and I said to my wife that I'd like to change my job."
A job with the East of England Co-Op funeral service followed, and Mr Parker has remained with them ever since - and it's work he loves.
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Mr Parker has worked in a number of roles within the business including as a hearse and limousine driver as well as in the chapel of rest itself preparing loved ones for their final journeys.
The appeal of Mr Parker's work has always been in helping others.
"We all do different roles but I was always very lucky I was outside helping families," said Mr Parker.
"I was on the frontline. I look after families from the start to the finish."
His job often involved speaking to families in the immediate aftermath of a loved one's death.
"We go to the home address, we are very sensitive and very caring and thoughtful because the families are there most of the time," said Mr Parker.
"We bring the loved one into our care at the chapel of rest."
There the deceased remain until arrangements are made with the family.
On the funeral day itself, it is Mr Parker's job to ensure things goes smoothly from loading up the coffin to walking in front of it as it heads to its final place of rest.
Mr Parker has remained dedicated to his career throughout and believes it has brought him a great deal of good.
"I get a lot of satisfaction from looking after people," he said.
"The profession is very rewarding, you see so many families in a time of sadness and I feel gifted and honoured to be looking after them.
"I consider myself to be a very caring, thoughtful person. Everyone comes first and I come last.
"Everyone I look after I consider that could be my mum and dad, my brother or sister. You do your upmost best for people.
"I have even given up holidays to go to work. I loved every moment of being there."
Mr Parker said his work was really a team effort including the doctors and nurses who look after people at the end of the lives as well as local hospices.
"There are so many people behind the scenes and I have met so many wonderful people," said Mr Parker.
"It really opens your eyes up. I've seen so much sadness and I've seen so many brave people, like my wife who died eight years ago due to terminal cancer."
Mr Parker said that he had seen a lot of changes in the industry over the years and that more and more young people were getting into the business.
"When I started it was people in their 40s," said Mr Parker.
"Now there are people coming into the funeral service in their 20s.
"If there's anyone at home now who wonders what to do with their career I would recommend the funeral service.
"It's rewarding and you feel so proud everyday you come into work."
On retirement, he says it is time to pass on the baton.
"I feel the time has come to let somebody have their turn," said Mr Parker.
"I am nearly coming up to 68. I have lived my dream job and had the time of my life."
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