This year’s New Year’s Honours list included the name of well known funeral director and community ambassador Tony Rowland.
The 80-year-old director of Rowland Brothers Limited, has been awarded an MBE for services to undertaking and the community.
Tony says the one driving ambition that has motivated him throughout his adult life, is to help create a society in which all are treated equally, as men, women and young people who – whatever their circumstances – “deserve to receive compassionate treatment in times of personal difficulty. “
At the age of 15, as an apprentice, Tony quickly identified that supporting people through the grief and loss of bereavement was an area in which he could make a difference.
Sixty years on he is still working full time, and has made a huge impact on innovations which have become standards in the undertaking profession. Four decades ago he set up a bereavement aftercare programme establishing this at a time when professional bereavement counselling was yet to become generally available. He dedicated specific members of staff solely to giving ongoing support to grieving people with no cost to the bereaved.
Another proud achievement for Tony – who has served as Chairman of the Croydon Association of Funeral Directors and President of the London Association of Funeral Directors – was the establishment of a worldwide support structure improving the efficient and compassionate repatriation of British nationals, who die while on holiday or working overseas and overseas citizens, who die in similar circumstances here.
Since 1971, Tony has been responsible for more than 40,000 such repatriations, including the return of all the UK citizens who died in the South Asia tsunami, as well as dealing with the consequences of disasters around the world, including the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings, travel disasters, extreme weather emergencies and overseas hostage situations.
As a result, Tony is regarded as an international repatriation expert and lectures at Scotland Yard to police family liaison officers and to the Rapid Response Team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
He is particularly appreciated by the African-Caribbean community, being almost unique in the services he provides. In addition to his professional work, Tony is involved in local charitable and community work including Scouting and schools which has seen him raise considerable sums of money.
One ongoing contribution to the community is as Chairman of the Thornton Heath Business Partnership, in which role he organises the annual Thornton Heath Festival set up 11 years ago.
This highlights the work of youth organisations, with the aim of influencing young people to join them rather than carrying knives or joining gangs. He works tirelessly towards this end, both behind the scenes and with his sleeves rolled up on the front line.