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News & Updates

A Week in the Life of Karen Knighton

In the latest of our features about the work of team members across Wathall’s, we focus on Karen Knighton who is the manager of our Alvaston branch.


I am currently in charge of the Alvaston branch whilst Emma Bunn is on maternity leave.  Although it is quite different to my usual office base in Macklin Street, I am thoroughly enjoying it. I used to work in the NHS as a health care assistant and then in administration until I joined the funeral services profession and I then joined Wathall’s in 2022. It is a very rewarding job and there is no better feeling when a family tells you how much you have helped make a horrible time in their lives more bearable.

I make the first call to families whose loved ones have passed away overnight to see which branch is more convenient for them and send them information to help them with the first steps in arranging a funeral. Our Next Steps brochure is really helpful to guide the family on the decisions that need to be made.  The last thing you want to do is pepper someone with questions so it is much easier for the family if they know what to expect.

The rest of the morning is spent updating the ‘to do’ list and planning out the week – although this is a very busy area and there is always someone popping in with an enquiry so flexibility is the key.

In the afternoon, a family comes in for a first appointment to arrange the funeral for a loved one.  We are so central in Derby that it is easier for the extended family in particular to meet here and we ensure that all elements for the cremation service are put in place.


Yesterday’s family want to include a notice in the Derby Telegraph which I sort for them.  Even though this is still popular, more and more families are content to use our ‘Much Loved’ service which is free and is where they can upload photographs, virtual candles and organise charity donations in lieu of flowers.  We can even include a QR code to the site on the orders of service for donations on the day of the funeral service.

Once I have confirmed the date at the crematorium, I then contact the celebrant that I think would best suit the family and their loved one and put them in touch with the family.

The style of funerals has definitely changed over the years.  Recently I had a family who conducted the whole cremation service themselves and even made their own video to pay tribute to their loved one.  The most important thing is that the family wishes come first.


I have another appointment with the family we have supported for three generations. Their father had a funeral plan with us and also updated his funeral wishes information a couple of years ago when his health was starting to deteriorate so everybody knows what he wants and are thankful for that.

He wanted a direct cremation which is becoming increasingly popular so we discuss this and allay any concerns.  Unlike many of the national firms, we ensure that local people are cremated locally and depending on the direct cremation package the family has chosen, we also give the family the chance to visit their loved one in the chapel of rest beforehand.  The family then talk together about the celebration party that they want when they have the ashes returned.  This will enable them to give their father the send off he deserves and help family and friends say goodbye and come to terms with their loss.

A couple of the next generation of the family also make appointments whilst they are here with me to set up funeral plans for themselves – recognising how much easier it is for a family when they know their loved ones’ wishes and taking away any financial burden from their own children.


We have an Art Stone Memorials showroom here so my colleague from Stapenhill comes over to meet several families about memorials from headstones to kerb sets.

I know some of these families well having arranged the funerals so it is a chance to check in on them, remind them of our bereavement support services and see if there is anything else we can do to support them on their grief journey.

In between answering the door to families, I concentrate on updating my work list and I also have a video meeting with my colleague Anita Fenton who is the manager of our Borrowash branch to finalise the details for our involvement in a Christmas tree festival that is located in a church between our two branches.


We have two funerals booked for Monday and today I receive the deceased at the branch.  One of the families want to visit their grandmother and also place some personal items in the coffin. I prepare the Chapel of Rest for them, have a final chat about the arrangements for the funeral and leave them in peace to say their goodbyes.

After making my final calls and doing all the checks that need to be made ahead of the funerals, I head home. It’s a busy weekend of football for my beloved DCFC as well as my husband’s team (Nottingham Forest) who are both playing.  This has always be a slight bone of contention in our house but we keep it to friendly banter – most of the time!