‘Brass boy’ aka Steve Biggs, of Mortlake Crematorium
Steve Biggs has worked as a Chapel Attendant and Crematorium Technician at Mortlake Crematorium, London for three years. There are a great many people in crematoria throughout the country doing Steve’s job and, like Steve, many of them are unsung heroes, too. It was a hard choice for the judges to choose one from the deserving nominees, but finally Steve was chosen as this year’s Crematorium Assistant of the Year on the strength of this touching testimonial from a colleague:
“Steve is affectionately known as Brass boy! When Steve is on chapel duty you will see him rubbing the brass door handles, door plates and brass on the catafalque vigorously before the first service in the chapel.
“Steve is particularly sensitive to the needs of bereaved parents. Little baby coffins used to be placed on a very old wooden oak board. He transformed this by carving a heart into the solid oak and cleaned and polished it. For each baby funeral he carefully places tea lights and flowers around the board. He selects appropriate and different music for each and every funeral when parents are unable to attend.
“There was an old wooden cross that used to be placed above the catafalque. The cross was often removed for one service and then need to be put back for the next service. This was done by athletically leaping onto the catafalque and placing on a ledge. This does not look respectful in the chapel and was dangerous. Steve cleverly altered a beautiful oak 5’candle holder to hold a brass cross which could be moved easily and looked in keeping with the chapel and lecterns. Of course he polished it too!
“If nobody is attending the service Steve will select music for the person and attend the service, showing respect by bowing as the curtains close. Of course if someone has asked for no music and no service he carried out their wishes. He carries out the family’s or indeed the deceased’s wishes to the highest standard he can, without judgement or opinion.
“Whilst working in the crematory he cleans and polishes the stainless steel. Having a clean chapel and crematorium shows respect for families and the deceased.
“His colleagues love him because he bakes great cakes and sausage rolls. So the numerous diets that are started often come to an end if Steve appears with a tub of homemade chocolate shortbread or freshly made bread. Steve may be 6’2 with a booming voice but he is a gentleman and more importantly he is a kind and caring. He is moved on many occasions by the grief he comes across. His response to this is to do everything he can to look after those people, often these little touches go unnoticed but not by us.
“In the three years he has been at Mortlake Steve has completed his Crematorium Technicians Training Scheme, passed his advanced Cremator Technicians certificate, and passed 3 modules of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management diploma all with distinctions.”
Runner Up in this category: Carolyne Reeve of Teesside Crematorium