17 May 2024

The Dunedin embalmer following the family profession

12:24 am on 17 May 2024
Jodie smiles off to the side of the room. She is leaning over a plush pew in a small room.

Jodie Hope is the new president of the New Zealand Embalmers Association. Photo: Supplied

At 30 years old, Jodie Hope is not the usual type of person people associate with funeral directing.

But the operations coordinator at funeral services InvoCare has just been named president of the New Zealand Embalmers Association, only the second woman to hold the position and the first to lead an all-female executive.

It is a role filled previously by both her father and great uncle.

But funeral directing runs even further back in her family, with her great-great-grandfather establishing Hope and Sons funeral home in Dunedin in 1887.

Speaking to Nights, Hope said despite death still being quite a taboo subject, things were slowly becoming more transparent and traditions were changing.

"Tradition used to be that children couldn't attend funeral services and weren't part of the proceedings or part of the planning of services and so what we're seeing nowadays is that people of a younger age are actually part of the whole process.

"That always takes away some of the mystique because people actually understand that it is something that happens through life and that it's kind of up to each individual family how they then want to celebrate or spend that time or remember in their own way."

Getting into the funeral business was not part of the plan, Hope said.

After finishing school, she had gone on to complete a business management degree with a focus on event management and human resources.

But before doing some travel, she started working at the family firm to earn some money. It was then that she realised how much of a rewarding profession it was - and one she wanted to continue doing.

Hope said it was all about helping people go through some of the toughest times they would experience in their lives.

"That really cemented it for me that [this] was the direction I did want to step into."

Hope said her parents initially worried that she was too young for such a job.

But her young age never hindered her, and although she had to mature quicker than others, it also helped her build confidence in herself, she said.

People finding out what she did for a living would usually go one of two ways.

"Especially when I was in my early 20s, people would definitely either be very intrigued and ask a lot of questions, or that would be the end of the conversation and they'd move on."

Hope said her new role had been on her radar for quite some time and it was "quite cool" to be able to step into the position.

The only other female president of the New Zealand Embalmers Association, who was elected in 2001, was from Hope and Sons, which made the role all the more special, she said.

The industry "definitely used to be very male-dominated" and having an all-women executive was a sign of the changing times, she said.

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