Wallace Stuart is a new business established by two remarkable, intelligent and capable women, Sarah Stuart and Lesley (Lel) Wallace.
Lel always wanted to be a funeral director, but her parents gently nudged her away from from her childhood dream. She trained as a graphic designer instead. But the dream never died, and when she hit forty she decided that it was now or never. She volunteered for a local funeral director and went back to school to gain her foundation certificate in funeral directing. Now, at last, she is doing the work she was born to do.
Sarah was a Registrar in Cornwall when she trained to be a funeral celebrant for people who did not want a full religious funeral. She wanted to be able to give better answers to her clients’ questions about what goes on in funeral homes, so she began doing some work in a funeral home, learned her trade, and then spent four years with another funeral director. That’s where she met Lel, and the two of them got on so well they decided to open their own funeral home so that it could be everything they had ever wanted a funeral home to be.
We find them to be impressive and admirable people. They are extremely serious about what they do, and they combine this with kindness, warmth and a good sense of humour. They are very rounded, extremely likeable and not at all ‘fluffy’. They are also, let’s not forget it, very brave. Setting up on their own as they have done is not easy in this business. Sarah says: “Lel and I support each other unconditionally. We both share the same ethos and beliefs. Our (male) bearers are experienced and we show them respect for the work they carry out on our behalf. In return, they are helpful and polite to our families – we are very lucky to have such dedicated individuals.”
They like to play their part in the local community. They help fundraise for their local primary school, and it is both delightful and unusual to see the children wave hello to the undertakers as they scamper past on their way home. They throw themselves into other village activities, and it is clear that theirs is a very natural and welcome presence here.
Each has their own Westie, Sally (Sarah’s) and Teddy (Lel’s). If you are in any way allergic to dogs, don’t worry, they’ll be kept out of the way. When not at work, Lel enjoys riding her 600cc motorbike and being with her husband and son. Sarah’s hands are full at home. She has three children, two boys and a girl.
Sarah and Lel will do things just as you like them done. If it’s a traditional, ceremonial funeral you want, they can put on a very good show indeed in their frock coats and top hats, and they’ll walk the hearse away from your house with style and dignity. If it’s something less formal you are after, that’s no problem at all. Tell them what you want and they’ll do it. They are very much NOT we-know-best undertakers. You know best.
What’s important to Sarah and Lel is that, for you, “everything is perfect.” They pride themselves on meticulous attention to detail, making sure you are involved as much or as little as you want to be. They won’t take over. They say: “A good funeral Director is one who merges into the background and ensures it all goes smoothly, without the need for taking over the spotlight – it is the deceased’s day to be celebrated not ours just because we have the hat on!” When you are planning the funeral, they will take things at your pace and give you all the time you need. We were struck by the many and various creative touches people bring to their funerals, having arranged them with Lel or Sarah. They really do explore your needs and wishes very carefully and, above all, they empower you to do things your way. They say: “We believe a good funeral does not have to be an expensive one, just one which lets their loved one know they did their best.”
Sarah and Lel care for people who have died with great tenderness and respect. We inspected their mortuary and spent time talking to them about how they work. We feel absolutely certain that they abide by the very highest standards and values.
The significant difference about this funeral home is that it is run by women – which is not as unusual as you may think. Remember, until the men took over in the second half of the last century, the care of the dead had belonged to women for centuries. How good it is to see them make a comeback. Both Lel and Sarah embody the empathy and emotional fluency we associate with women – and we think there’s something very nice indeed in having women come to your house to collect the person who has died. They do employ some men. They are not out-and-out feminists, they simply bring feminine values to the service they offer you. As a male who conducted the accreditation, I felt entirely comfortable and very happy with this.
Your call will be answered by Sarah or Lel, anytime, day or night.
Premises – Well appointed premises in the busy high street of North Petherton. Inside, it’s a haven of quiet. It’s also bright, fresh and sunny – the opposite of what you might think a funeral home to look like. They say: “We want it to feel “home from home” so we have a fireplace and comfy chairs. We want it to be purple without being too girly – we want it to be warm and welcoming.” They are extremely proud of having done all the decorating themselves. If you want to visit the person who has died, the chapel of rest is roomy, neutral and beautiful. Bring your own music if you like.
Home Visits – Yes, they will come to your home to make arrangements
Embalming – They do not routinely embalm, and will only suggest if they think it absolutely necessary.
Continuity of Care – Lel and Sarah will be there for you from your first call until the funeral is over. Nothing is delegated to other people.
Family Participation – If you’d like to come in and wash and dress the person who has died then they’ll be there for you, to help you or leave you to it.
Same Sex person to wash and dress the person who has died? Yes, if you wish, no problem.
Ethnic Specialism – Very willing to work with all faith groups and funeral customs.
Local Celebrants – Excellent celebrants on their books – they’ll only work with the best.
Parking – Turn off the high street down Queen Street. Park in front of the green garage doors 10m down on your left.
Home arranged funerals – Will gladly work with you if you wish to care for the person who has died at home: see the Do It All Yourself section of the Good Funeral Guide website.
Website – Useful information resource. No prices listed.
After the funeral – They are always there for you. Drop in for a cuppa and a chat anytime. People do it all the time.
Prices – Very competitive indeed, especially considering the value of the experience you’ll receive, but they are determined to keep their fees low and enable everybody, including those on a budget, to have the best funeral possible. They say: “Our price structure is open and honest, we always provide an estimate for the family and let them know any changes as they add more items, or change their minds.” Do ring around other funeral directors and compare prices. We very much doubt whether many, if any, will be able to match these.
A premium, professional service at a remarkably affordable price. We are very impressed by Lel and Sarah; we think they are really special people. You are very lucky to have them.
Any decisions you take on engaging the services of a funeral director should be based on your views and research. You should not rely solely upon the views and opinions offered by the Good Funeral Guide.
Friday 2nd August 2013 at 2:58 pm
Lel and Sarah dealt with the funeral of my late mother. I couldn’t have asked for anything more in the respect and care they showed my mother. They were outstanding and nothing was too much trouble for them. These two girls went the extra “mile” as I wished the funeral to take place in my mother’s home town, which was over 90 miles away, that was not a problem to the girls. So many people commented that they had never seen more caring funeral directors – they were both so kind and helpful and the service and all its arrangements were beautiful. Mrs B. Pullen