As the 5th generation of her family to lead Walter Carter Funerals in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, there’s little doubt the funeral industry is in Dale Maroney’s blood. Ever mindful of the legacy she’s been entrusted with, Dale is positioning the business for a strong future and is committed to giving back to the industry.
Dale’s earliest memories are of visiting her father at work at Walter Carter Funerals. As a child, hearing people talk about funerals, seeing grieving families and passing a coffin in the hallway was not unusual.
“One of my strongest childhood memories is tagging along while Dad walked some family friends around our funeral home,” Dale remembers. “I can still see their wide-eyed looks of amazement – and their looks of utter shock when their young daughter flung open the fridge!
“I was about 10 at the time and remember thinking ‘don’t they know that’s where we keep the bodies’. While it was completely normal to me, it’s the first time I realised our family business was a little outside the norm and something other people found a bit uncomfortable.”
At 21, having just completed a degree in social work, Dale announced she wanted to join the family business. “While my parents never placed any expectations on me, I know they were delighted when I started work at Walter Carter Funerals,” she says.
“Dad wanted me to learn the business from the ground up, so I started at the bottom. But I had a head start. Being around the business and the industry my entire life, there was a certain amount of knowledge I’d naturally acquired. Working in the business was a perfect fit.”
But Dale took a career detour when she accepted a senior management role at the peak real estate industry body, gaining valuable business experience outside the funeral sector.
“After 14 years ‘out in the wild’, I came home to Walter Carter Funerals and stepped into the position of Managing Director,” she says. “It was the right time for me and for the business, and I’d gained a breadth of experience that allowed me to do the job the way I wanted to do it. It was the role my dad had earmarked for me and all the pieces fell in to place.”
Traditional values, contemporary choices
Celebrating 130 years in business in 2017, Walter Carter Funerals is the oldest independent, family-owned funeral business in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
“Our business is a very successful one, but it would be a mistake to think we can just keep doing things the same way we’ve always done them,” she says. “Just because we’re an old business doesn’t mean we’re stuck in old ways.
“Our business motto is ‘traditional values, contemporary choices’ and we strive to bear this out in everything we do. While we’re always aware of tradition, we’re also always on the lookout for new trends. For us, it’s about giving people a full range of choices to meet their needs.”
When asked how she feels about Walter Carter Funerals, Dale answers with one word: “proud”.
“I’ve always been proud of what our business stands for and what we offer our community,” she explains. “That pride was instilled in me by my family and has always been reinforced by others in the industry and the community.”
Giving back to the industry
Far from being solely focused on what’s going on in her own business, as Vice President of the NSW/ACT Division Dale has a keen eye on the wider industry.
“What can we do to elevate professional standards? How can we ensure our profession is viewed highly by consumers, government and other stakeholders? What’s going to make things better for all of us? For me, it’s about taking a broader view.”
So what’s next? “After 130 years at the same location – albeit with lots of renovations and improvements over the years – we’re relocating,” Dale says. “Our new premises is very close to where we are now – but unlike our current location, our new home will allow us to expand and increase our service offering.
“We hope to move during the second half of 2017. It’s exciting times ahead!”
If you want to find out more about working in the funeral industry, email [email protected] and we’ll help you find the information you need.
This article was first published in the March 2017 edition of the The Australian Funeral Director (the official magazine of the Australian Funeral Directors Association).