The managing director of Bondholder Wathall’s — Derby’s longest established independent funeral director — has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List for services to the local community.
Mother of three, Helen Wathall has worked in the family business since she was 18 and has been Managing Director since she was just 29 - taking over the reins of the company on the death of her father Bill.
Talking about the award Helen said: “I was in total shock when the letter arrived to tell me that I had been nominated for an MBE.
“Over the generations, the Wathall family has always been part of the local community whether that is leading Derby’s war effort in the Forties to being an active member of the local business community to action improvements in St Peters Quarter.
“I am therefore immensely honoured to be recognised in this way – particularly as it comes at the close of Wathall’s 160th anniversary year.”
Helen Wathall is the fifth generation of her family to run Wathall’s which has offices in Macklin Street, Alvaston, Borrowash and Ashbourne.
The company has won several local and regional awards for its contribution to the community.
Initiatives have included:
Establishing Derby and Ashbourne Dandelions – free bereavement support groups to provide a safe place for people to express their grief in a relaxed and social environment, which are free to attend and open to everyone (regardless of whether they are clients of Wathall’s or not).
Supporting a wide range of local charities including The Laura Centre which helps bereaved children and families
Involvement in a number of campaigns to break down the taboos amongst families of talking about death to encourage better later life planning and people’s funeral wishes
Working with Derby County Football Club to enable fans to have bespoke funeral services at Derby County Football Club
Helen is also volunteer chair of St Peters Quarter Business Improvement District (BID) where she has been particularly involved in initiatives to improve the safety, cleanliness and sense of community in the area since the launch of the first BID in 2011.
Nationally, she was elected in 2003 as the first woman president of the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) which represents more than 1,000 family-owned firms. During this time she represented SAIF nationally, dealing with government policy and profession issues.
She has also became the first woman board member of Golden Charter – a pre-paid funeral planning company owned by a group of independent funeral directors. Golden Charter is the UK's largest funeral plan provider, working with over 3000 funeral directors nationally, and with over 500,000 customers.