Tamworth Co-op funeral boss retires after overseeing 30 years of major changes

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Tamworth Co-operative Society’s long-serving general funeral manager retired recently after a distinguished 30-year career in the town.

Amanda Woodward is moving to Spain to start a new life in the sun with her husband David after leading her team thorough a time of unprecedented change in the funeral industry.

Tamworth Co-op’s chief executive, Julian Coles, paid tribute to her, saying she had always provided exceptional leadership, especially during the ‘two very challenging years when we were so significantly affected by Covid-19.’

“She will be greatly missed by everybody at the Society, and we send our sincere thanks and warmest wishes for her retirement.”

When Amanda (55) first arrived in Tamworth in 1992 the funeral division consisted of an office in Upper Gungate and a small branch in Atherstone. It has greatly expanded under her watch and now employs more than 40 people across funeral homes in Tamworth, Uttoxeter, Woodville, Heath Hayes, Pelsall, Coseley and Great Wyrley.

Amanda says the biggest change she has witnessed in the funeral industry is the sheer scale and flexibility of the services offered.

“At one time the only choice was a traditional funeral service on a religious theme. Some people still want that, of course, but today a funeral can include just about any conceivable aspect a person might request. They can even have their ashes dispersed by fireworks.”

One of the most surprising requests she received was to have a coffin built in the shape of a skip for a scrapyard owner.

Being made national president of the Co-operative Funeral Service Managers’ Association was a significant milestone in Amanda’s career. She was only the second woman in its history – dating back to the 1940s – to hold the position.

But her proudest moment of all was the day in 2017 she was named president of the British Institute of Embalmers, a prestigious organisation which also operates several Divisions overseas.

“That was the moment I finally broke through the glass ceiling of a traditionally male-dominated world. In the corporate world, it was very difficult for a woman to become an embalmer when I started out in the funeral industry in 1983. I was told women just don’t do things like that.

“So, I thought right I’ll show you. I’m doing it whether you like it or not and paid for it myself.”

Her toughest days in the funeral industry have come recently.

“The pandemic has been the most challenging period of my life. Even though we braced ourselves, it was still like being hit by a tsunami. It was an incredibly tough period and there were times when we took in very significant numbers of people who had died from Covid.”