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Coronavirus takes its toll on the bereaved, says Newmarket funeral director

A Newmarket funeral director said conducting funerals during the current coronavirus pandemic had been heartbreaking because of the restrictions in place.

Phil Fuller, a director at Southgate, the town’s oldest family-owned business, said he had ‘never experienced anything like it’.

“Everything we usually do has been compromised,” he said. “Only 10 people can attend, we have to meet at the crematorium or at the graveside because there are no church services.

Southgate of Newmarket (33752971)
Southgate of Newmarket (33752971)

“There can be no cortege, no limousines and, at the crematorium, we are no longer allowed to carry the coffin.”

Unlike weddings and baptisms, funerals have still been allowed to go ahead but with immediate family only with a maximum of 10 people allowed at a crematorium.

“Conducting a funeral with the current restrictions is so much harder because you know the person who’s passed away really deserved a packed house and a wake where everyone shares happy memories. It’s all
part of the usual grieving process,” said Mr Fuller.

“Families want their relatives to have the best possible celebration of their life, surrounded by people who knew them. At the moment they can’t. It’s heartbreaking.

“I feel for these people. I lost my brother Nick when he was 36 and I would not have wanted my family, my mum and dad, to go through what people are having to go through now.”

The company is doing what it can to
make things easier for those having to say farewell to loved ones under the current restrictions.

Before the recent funeral of a well-known village resident, Mr Fuller said the hearse was driven round the village.

“Nearly 40 people lined the route and clapped as they saw us drive by. Because they could not attend a funeral service they paid their respects in a different way.”

Southgate has, for sometime, been recording funeral services for families.

“This is particularly important now as although only 10 people may be able to attend, 35 more can watch it remotely,” said Mr Fuller.

Southgate has not yet dealt with any coronavirus cases, but Mr Fuller is mindful of the risks he and his staff face.

“When we have gone into care homes it is difficult to determine whether or not people have had Covid-19 but we have procedures in place to protect our staff and also the general public,” he said.

Mr Fuller’s co-directors at Southgate are his parents John and Thelma Fuller.

John Fuller will have been with the firm for 60 years this August having joined as an apprentice carpenter back in 1960 when the business was also still a building firm being run by William Southgate.

Mr Fuller took over in 1970 and built the current business up from then.