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50 years’ service and still going strong

Funeral director Ivan Fordham has completed an impressive 50 years’ service for the East of England Co-operative Society and is showing no signs of retiring. In fact, he’s still working full time.

Ivan started at the Society’s funeral furnishing department in Ipswich as a tea boy aged 15 in April 1960. At that time a team of carpenters at the former Ipswich Industrial Co-operative Society made all its own coffins by hand.

Over the years Ivan has taken on various different duties within the funeral department, including driving limousines and working as a funeral bearer.

His current role still includes working as a bearer, as well as overseeing the workshop in Ipswich where he puts the finishing touches to coffins, including engraving the nameplates.

“I have always enjoyed the work and I take pride in it,” said Ivan. “I like receiving thank you letters from the families, and knowing that they are happy.”

He has seen many changes over the years, from the days when most funeral vehicles were horse drawn and all the orders written by hand on cards, to the present day where many things are done on computer.

He also remembers some of the celebrity funerals the Society has dealt with, including circus showman Billy Smart who died whilst his circus troupe was on tour in Ipswich in 1966.

Ivan received a gold watch in commemoration of his outstanding service at an event at the East of England Co-operative Society’s Headquarters at Wherstead Park, Suffolk. He is pictured (r) with Roger Grosvenor, group general manager, trading.

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