Philip Christian and Richard Grimmett
The roads that took Philip Christian and Richard Grimmett to Bellarine Memories have been ones of twists, turns and changing life experiences.
For Philip, it’s a story of personal exploration and growth. It began in a Victorian country town, continued to university, several years as a school teacher and on to the ministry. Then came a posting to Zambia, where Philip worked on a mission station – a time he regards with fondness.
“In Africa, I learned about the importance of community and simplicity in life and the incredible hospitality of people. It was a privilege to have been able to live in that environment and something I carry with me.” —Philip Christian
Upon returning to Australia, Philip left the ministry and started work as a celebrant in Geelong. During that time, Philip and Richard formed a business partnership that resulted in Bellarine Memories becoming a mainstay in the local community.
The two agree that there are no ‘cookie cutter solutions’ when it comes to presenting a funeral.
Richard says their approach is to be more creative and to recognise people as individuals. He cites a simple key to helping people.
“You have to listen, listen, listen – listen and learn about the person who died and the people who cared.”
“We start with a blank sheet of paper,” adds Philip. “Above all, the service is presented with authenticity and is appropriate to the family’s needs and culture.”
“If people feel better for having been there, then we know we’ve done the right thing.”
“That’s what we do. It’s why we’re here.”
Fiona Dempster’s role is to ensure that Bellarine Memories stays strongly connected to the local community as it has been since 2005.
It’s a role that comes naturally.
“I grew up in a country town so I’ve always had that sense of community.” — Fiona Dempster
What’s more, she says the importance of connecting with the people and organisations that give Ocean Grove its special character has long been part of the business’s DNA.
Founders, Philip and Richard really care about this community, she says. “They are the reason Bellarine Memories is important to Ocean Grove. It’s important for me to make sure their legacy continues.”
In fulfilling that role, Fiona has also discovered much about the funeral industry and the people in it.
“People here truly value their role in what’s a difficult time in people’s lives. If I can make a difference in people’s lives, then I am definitely doing something worthwhile.”
“People are looking for help and guidance,” she says. “That’s why I want to make sure that people know we’re here for them when they need us.”
Pre-planned funerals / Funeral Arranger
“Since year twelve, I always wanted to be in the funeral business.”
A surprising statement, but for Michelle Watkins, it’s true.
In fact, all that initially prevented Michelle from realising her ambition was being deemed too short to help in tasks like shoulder-carrying coffins.
Years later, however, while at her grandmother’s funeral, Michelle noticed that times and funeral practices had changed. “Coffins were hand-carried and there were a lot more women in funeral care, she recalls. “I thought -maybe I can do this.”
For years that thought stayed with her. Then she learned of a course for aspiring funeral directors. From that point on, there was no stopping her.
Before long, she was part of the team at Kings Funerals and ultimately, Bellarine Memories. It’s a role she’s uniquely qualified for.
“Though I wanted to do this from an early age, it was best that it came later because my life experience has enabled me to offer more.” — Michelle Watkins
On becoming a bereaved parent, after the stillbirth of her daughter Margaret, sixteen years ago, Michelle benefitted from a support group of others with similar loss.
“You bring an understanding that the family are feeling alone. I know what that’s like, and when people come through our door there’s an empathy that helps me guide them.”
For Beth King, being involved with funerals has always been part of life.
“My grandparents’ home was above our funeral chapel in Geelong,” Beth recalls. “I used to type up funeral notices for Dad when I was about seven – go into the office with him on the weekend, type the notices and fax them to the newspaper.”
“I really appreciate the generations of my family. It’s my reputation but also my family’s I work to uphold.” — Beth King
It’s not surprising then, that Beth understands the benefits a funeral can bring to a family.
“What’s most important to us is that the family feels that they’ve marked the loss of a person in a way that’s meaningful to them – when they look back, they think, “Yes, we did the right thing.”
Like her parents and grandparents before her, Beth is enthusiastically involved in the community.
Life today, however, is focused on serving the people of Geelong and their needs in one of life’s most difficult times.
“Grief isn’t just about crying,” Beth says. “It’s also about smiling and remembering. Yes, there’s the sadness of the event but also the happiness of the memories – the gratitude for what the departed brought into people’s lives.”