Tuakau's Grahams Funeral Services' Lynne Graham, her son Mark Graham and his son Jared Graham proudly celebrate the family-operated business' 80th anniversary.

It may not be many children's dream job but for the Graham family, looking after funerals is their calling.

Tuakau's Grahams Funeral Homes has celebrated 80 years and still remains a family-operated business with three generations employed there.

Managing director Mark Graham was proud to be part of the company that was set up by his grandfather in 1935.

"It is an important service to allow the community to farewell the dead," he said.

"It is like a calling, some people become a minister of a church, some people get involved in politics and the Graham family found their niche helping people when a bereavement comes along."

Percy Graham set up the funeral business in 1935 which was run alongside his hardware store called Tuakau Cabinet Works and Undertakers.

"The businesses worked together on the corner of Liverpool St and St Stephens Ave until slowly the funeral side of the work started to increase," Mark said.

"In the late 70s, some stand alone funeral services were built behind the hardware service and the business evolved to be PRJ Graham and Sons."

It was not until 1981 that the businesses completely separated.

Bruce Graham, Mark's father, took over the funeral business calling it Grahams Franklin Funeral Services and his brother Stuart Graham took over what is now Tuakau ITM.

In 1991, the business shifted to West St, Tuakau where it stands now.

Over the years it has grown to become what Mark called a one-stop shop for funerals with it offering its own convention hall, catering service, caskets, headstones, hearse rental, programme printers and service operators.

The business has expanded and also operates out of Pukekohe and Waiuku.

Mark, who has been at the company since 1988, said he has noticed plenty of changes to the way people want to remember the dead.

"Although we have a lot of church services, we also have a lot more secular services," he said.

"It has changed from being a formal funeral to being a celebration of one's life.

"There are sad times but it is also a time to remember all the happy times and a lot of services now reflect that. We have more multimedia parts in the funeral with displays and music."

He said the business' role had evolved to be like event planners with staff organising some lavish services, similar to the size of a large wedding, in one week.

Mark said they had worked hard to keep up with the latest technology even offering webcasting services to stream funerals online for friends and family who were unable to attend.

In the future, he hoped the business would be able to build its own crematorium to cater for the growing Franklin area.

Shaun Eade - Stuff


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