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Becky's the fourth generation

Becky Hillier has become the fourth generation to join her family’s 90-year-old funeral firm Hillier’s Funeral Directors in Swindon.

Becky's great-granddaughter Harold founded that company, her father Mark is managing director and her mother Val is company secretary and bereavement care co-ordinator. Becky believes that the business has benefited from remaining in the hands of one family unit for so long. 

“Although the business has modernised with the times, it’s the family values and the customer service that have stayed the same,” she said. “Each of us has brought something new to the business but the same values have been there throughout and we all share these. Granddad brought something to the business when he started, my dad brought something different and I will bring something else. It means we have been able to move with the times.”

Becky, 26, says job satisfaction comes from the families’ reactions when everything has gone well: “When you’ve conducted the funeral and afterwards, when they say: ‘We’re so grateful for everything you’ve done; you’ve done us proud'.”

As children, Becky and her sister helped with tasks such as washing the cars and helping to prepare for bereavement care events, and she also spent a summer working at the family firm’s office after graduation. Her degree in law and history took her onto four years with a building society – in a role that touched on website design, advertising and a range of other skills she will be able to use in the business – but the family business was always something that was in the back of her mind.

“I always saw myself going into business, whether it be owning my own business or starting at the bottom and progressing my way up,” she said.

Becky is especially proud of the aftercare service begun by her father about 18 years ago. Clients are invited to come for bereavement care, and about 30% take up the offer. Every family also gets invited to the annual remembrance service, which is held in October with ministers from different religions, a choir and a band and 300 to 400 people attend. 

“As everyone comes into the church we hand them a leaf,” she says. “It’s the symbol of life, of remembrance. Halfway through the service we ask them to come up with their leaf. We pin it on a banner for them and give them rosemary [for remembrance], which was traditionally given out at funerals in the olden days. Then we raise up the banner with all the leaves and it’s quite a powerful symbol of remembrance.”

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