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Duckett’s take on death

Duckett Funerals owner Trixie Duckett and trainee Bronwen Nicholas in front of the Featherston Camp sculpture. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A new funeral home in Featherston aims to start a conversation about death.

“It’s something that’s not talked about a lot of the time, and I feel it should be,” Duckett Funerals owner Trixie Duckett said.

In Duckett’s experience, most people had very little notion of what was involved in a funeral before losing someone close to them.

“I come across people who are 60, and it’s the first time they have lost someone.

“They just have no idea about the process, legal things, or what they can and can’t do.”

Duckett wanted to change that by increasing community engagement.

She would host an open day for the funeral home shortly after its opening on January 11.

Duckett said that the funeral home would be a Featherston-focused business, and would employ local caterers, florists, celebrants, and musicians for services.

Having lived in Featherston for about 18 years, Duckett said that she was well known in the community and sought to build upon her strong relationships in her new venture.

“If you’re trying to sell a house, you get a real estate agent … You need someone that you have total trust in, who will guide you through everything.”

With 24 years of experience in the industry, Duckett had facilitated every type of funeral, from more traditional services to parties.

However, she said that arranging a funeral was only part of the business.

“There’s so much more to funeral directing than just organising a funeral – it’s also being a support person for the family and helping them to get through one of the toughest things you can ever go through.”

Duckett’s experiences with grief had inspired her to join the industry at age 19.

After leaving school, she had worked as a farmer but was unhappy in her work.

During that time, she had also lost some close family members.

“I remember seeing these men walk in with stretchers and suits, and walk back out, and then grandad or whoever would come back all nicely dressed. I started questioning what happened.”

Duckett rang some funeral homes to find out more about the industry.

When she paid a visit to Gee and Hickton Funeral Directors in Lower Hutt, they offered her a job on the spot. While working, Duckett completed her embalming qualification through the Central Institute of Technology [later taken over by the Wellington Institute of Technology].

After three years with Gee and Hickton, Duckett moved to Australia to work at a large firm that had a contract with the Melbourne Coroner.

That was during Melbourne’s gang wars of 1998-2010.

“It was very different from New Zealand … I saw quite a bit.”

Upon returning to New Zealand, she felt she needed a break from the industry and worked for a time on vineyards in Martinborough.

However, she soon realised that she was missing the job.

For the past 10 years, Duckett had worked as a locum embalmer and funeral director in Wairarapa, Wellington, and Palmerston North.

More recently, fellow funeral directors had been encouraging her to realise her dream of opening her own funeral home.

“I found the perfect venue for the business, and everything fell into place after that.”

That venue was Featherston’s ‘Acorn House’, located at 56 Fitzherbert St.

The building had been set up as offices, but Duckett would also establish a cool room for bodies that had not been embalmed.

Duckett would mainly carry out the embalming process at the Gee and Hickton mortuary in Upper Hutt.

She would also be able to access a mortuary in Masterton if the Remutakas were closed for any reason.

However, Duckett said that, along with other traditions, many people were now choosing not to be embalmed.

“I just want people to get what they want, not what they feel is tradition.

“What’s right for one family will not be right for another.”

Duckett said that one of the prevailing misconceptions about funerals was that people had to be buried in a suit.

“My dad is a farmer who lives in denim shorts and a chequered shirt. If I viewed him in a suit, it wouldn’t be Dad. It’s all of eternity – what would you be comfy in?”

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