Two Cambridgeshire funeral workers hit 110 year milestone to become longest serving Co-op colleagues

Two Central England Co-operative colleagues are celebrating after clocking up 110 YEARS combined of helping families say goodbye to their loved ones.

Derek Rowlett and John Gelder toasted their long-service by talking about how working for George James Funeral Service, in March, has changed over the years and why they continue to come into work with the same passion every single day.

The pair are now the longest serving colleagues at Central England Co-op, which owns George James and hundreds of other Funeral Homes across 16 counties.

Derek, who has worked for the company for 60 years, revealed that helping people was the reason he continues to do the job.

The 75-year-old said: “I have worked for the company for six decades and joined when it was known as George Brewin. Back then it wasn’t just a funeral director, the firm also was a house furnisher and a jewellers.

“I started worked in the shop, but very quickly moved over to the funeral side and I have not looked back since.
“A lot has changed over the 60 years but one thing that hasn’t is the reason why we all do this – helping people.

“I get great satisfaction from working as part of the team here and helping the families that come to us for support. This is why I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.”

Away from work, Derek likes to unwind by taking part in his favourite hobby – golf.

Colleague John is celebrating five decades with the Funeral Director and has been a fixture ever since he first walked through the door straight from school in 1968.

The 65-year-old said: “It was coming near to the time I was due to leave school and I was looking for a career. I ended up getting a job in the George Brewin workshop and I have never left.

“I love the job and actually love it now more than I ever have. I get to work for a great business, work with some great people and, most importantly, get to help people in their time in need.”

Kerry Rolfe is the Funeral Director at George James Funeral Service.

She said: “Derek and John are both amazing characters that everyone loves to be around.

“They are always the people you turn to when you need to ask a question as they have so much experience and are always on hand with advice.

“We are so proud to be able to celebrate this historic milestone with them and look forward to them continuing to help families for years to come.”

George James Funeral Service offers a 24-hour service, seven days a week.  In addition to arranging funerals, Kerry and her team are also able to offer advice on floral tributes, monumental masonry, funeral stationery, pre-paid funeral plans and probate advice.  The team can be contacted on 01354 652208.


Notes to editors

Picture caption: Derek Rowlett and John Gelder are celebrating 110 years combined long-service working for George James Funeral Service, which is owned by Central England Co-op.

About Central England Co-operative


Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK. 


It is a modern, forward-looking organisation employing over 8,000 staff, with the Society’s principal areas of activity being food, funeral services, and property.


The company’s funeral business consists of over 120 funeral homes across 16 counties, 10 florists, masonry production and administration, Bretby Crematorium and Terry Smiths coffin factory.


Central England Co-operative has more than 430 trading outlets across 16 counties including; West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. 


The Society has an ambitious food store and funeral home development programme for 2018.


Central England Co-operative is proud of its reputation for ethical business practices and corporate responsibility.  It is a member of Business in the Community, the membership organisation that stands for responsible business, and has also won many business awards for excellence.  The Society supports a number of charities including Dementia UK and invests a percentage of its trading profit into local communities.


Becoming a member of Central England Co-operative offers a whole host of benefits ranging from collecting points every time you spend in store to earn a share of the profits, access to members activities and community initiatives including the Community Dividend Fund, which hands out grants of up to £5,000 to charities and good causes across the Society’s trading estate.

Find out how to become a Central England Co-operative member by calling 0800 0501 601, emailing or visiting


For more information visit, follow Central England Co-operative on Twitter: @mycoopfood, @mycooplife and on Facebook:


Rob Smyth at Central England Co-operative on 01543 414140


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