Funeral director who pioneered free bereavement counselling is made an MBE

A funeral director who has supported bereaved families through their grief for 65 years has been made an MBE in the Queen’s New Years Honours.

Tony Rowland, of South Croydon, is director of Rowland Brothers Limited, of Whitehorse Road, West Croydon, and with branches throughout the area, and has done voluntary work for many local charities and community projects.

Tony has been awarded an MBE ‘For services to Undertaking and the community in Surrey’.

He became an apprentice at the age of 15 in 1953 and is now, at the age of 80 is still working full time.

He set up, four decades ago, a continuing bereavement aftercare programme for all individuals and families making use of his firm’s services – at no extra cost to them – before it became generally available to grieving people.

That has ensured sympathetic contact is made immediately following a funeral, and continues for at least a year afterwards, and often much longer.

The firm also offers practical assistance and emotional support to people who are often unsure how to cope in the often heart-breaking situation in which they suddenly find themselves.

He also created of a worldwide network and support structure for the efficient and compassionate repatriation of deceased British nationals who die while on holiday or working overseas, and citizens of other countries who die in the UK.

Since 1971, Tony has been responsible for more than 40,000 such repatriations, through a network of 500 agents throughout the world, including the return of all the UK citizens who died in the South Asia tsunami, the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings, travel disasters, extreme weather emergencies and overseas hostage situations.

This involves discussions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its embassies and consulates around the world, overseas diplomats and foreign government offices, coroners, airlines, travel companies, insurance bodies and health organisations.

He is regarded as an expert in international repatriation and lectures at Scotland Yard to police family liaisonofficers and to the Rapid Response Team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Tony is also a training officer for new UK diplomats being prepared for overseas assignments.

Tony’s company, which was an official supplier to the 2012 London Olympics, provides the official repatriation helpline for the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Tony is known for his ability to relate to people of all ethnic origins and religions, and also those with no faith at all.

Tony has served as Chairman of the Croydon Association of Funeral Directors and President of the London Association of Funeral Directors.

He is involved in local charitable and community work such groups as Rotary, the Round Table, the Royal British Legion, Freemasonry, scouting and schools.

He has fundraised for each and set up the Rowland Brothers Foundation, whose income is boosted by regular donations from the family businesses.

He is chairman of the Thornton Heath Business Partnership, through which he created the Thornton Heath Festival 11 years ago, highlighting the work of scouts, guides, the Boys’ Brigade and cadet corps, aiming to lure children away from gangs.

In its first year, 170 young people joined youth groups in the area.

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