Funeral directors under new ownership
Since 1898 there have been just four funeral directors in Dannevirke. Grant Hurrell stepped down recently, with Tracey Friend taking ownership of the new rebranded Tararua Funerals.
Anderson and Son were funeral directors from 1898 to 1961, Viv Oliver from 1961 to 1972, John Healey from 1972 until 1983. Grant took over on April 1, 1983, purchasing the business from Healey.
“I came to Dannevirke because there was a business available. In those days not many funeral directors businesses were sold,” he said. “Over the years I’ve had good times and bad.
“I came from a firm which handled 800 funerals a year and our boss said, ‘look after service, quality and people and the money will look after itself and I’m pleased to have been able to carry on that philosophy at Tararua Funeral Services.”
Tracey said Grant has also instilled those qualities in her and staff member Rita Brown.
Grant said he’s proud to have supported the town in many ways.
“When we built the new chapel we purchased everything, except the chairs, locally and I always try and spend money in Dannevirke,” he said. “I’ve supported the Dannevirke Fantasy Cave, St Vincent de Paul, the St John Health Shuttle, Tararua Riding for the Disabled, the Cactus youth programme and the Cancer Society.”
Grant said he’s proud of the way the 104 disinterment at Matamau Cemetery and the reinterments in the new cemetery were handled.
“The knowledge of Herb Chase and Tom Collier in that project was invaluable,” he said.
One of the highlights for Grant was being acknowledged by St John for the work he did in helping to set up the health shuttle service. “But being made a life member of the Manawatu¯ Cancer Society was a highlight and a disappointment,” he said. “Since 1983 I’ve appreciated the work of the field officer and the late Mary Snaddon, but the big disappointment has been the way the Manawatu¯ Cancer Society has dealt with Dannevirke and the community regarding bequests and money raised. Only a fraction has come back to this community and it’s been upsetting for some families because they had stipulated the money was to be used for this community.”
Although Grant and his family moved to Palmerston North in 1990 so his children could go to university and still live at home, he’s very proud of his contribution to Tararua.
“There have been challenging incidents, but I hope I have been able to help families get through,” he said. “When I came to Dannevirke I was the only fully qualified funeral director and embalmer, but over the years the company has put Tracey through her New Zealand diploma of funeral directing and Rita Brown has recently achieved her diploma in embalming. She is qualified in natural embalming and she can also use other natural techniques in body care.”
“I had a major heart attack in 2002 and really started stepping back from the business three years ago,” he said. “I’m 70 in December and I’ve really struggled some days. I would like to spend more time with my growing number of grandchildren, but may be back for certain funerals. I will miss the personal relationships though.”
Keen on rugby and a referee here in Dannevirke previously, Grant will continue to referee the big games from the sideline, in his home in Palmerston North.
“We’ll miss him and his heart has always been in this community, but he deserves his rest,” Tracey said.
“Taking ownership of this business is a natural progression and after 14 years here I couldn’t bear to let anyone else look after this community. I will just continue to do the job we’ve done for Tararua, which is a great community. Rita and I will carry on just the two of us, with a few little discreet changes, but with the same quality of service.”
One of the major changes for funeral directors has been the arrival of cellphones.
“From 1983 to 1990, I only had two telephones, one at home and one at work,” Grant said. “Technology has changed this industry and there’s also been a big change, with photo tributes, books, celebrants and the personalisation of funeral services, compared to when I started.”
Tararua Funerals now do live streaming on their own channel, progression driven by the next generation spread throughout the world.
On Monday, Tracey Friend will take over ownership of Tararua Funeral Services from Grant Hurrell, who has been at the helm for 35 years. Tracey will rebrand the business as Tararua Funerals.