The new site manager of Cam Valley Crematorium started his career in the industry by quite literally following in his father’s footsteps – and he hasn’t looked back since.
After nine years in the industry, Sam Cunningham has taken up his first managerial role at the facility, which serves the communities of Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.
Cam Valley Crematorium is part of Westerleigh Group, the UK’s largest owner and operator of crematoria and cemeteries, with 35 sites in England, Scotland and Wales, all set within beautifully-landscaped gardens of remembrance which provide pleasant, peaceful places for people to visit and reflect.
Sam said he and his family used to live across the road from a crematorium and some years ago, his father took a second job there.
Sam explained: “He worked at Cam Valley Crematorium for a couple of months until a lack of sleep took its toll.
“When he left his second job, he asked the manager is she would consider taking on his son in his place and she agreed. My dad came home and said, ‘good news, Sam, I’ve got you a job’ and that’s how I got started.
“I only really knew what I wanted to do after about a year into my first job, and I only recently left that job to pursue the next stage of my development. I’ve been in the crematorium environment for almost nine years. It’s all I know and find it very rewarding.”
After working for another company in the same sector, Sam’s first job with Westerleigh Group was as a Crematorium Attendant at Cam Valley, which he did for six months before being offered – and accepting – the Site Manager role.
“I was very excited when I was offered the post, it was a nice boost of confidence.
“My main focus now is to settle in and become a worthwhile successor to Claire Butcher, who has moved to another Westerleigh Group crematorium, West Suffolk.
“I would like to develop the gardens here, with an eclectic range of flora, and really showcase the beauty that this site has to offer.
“We’re easy to get to and enjoy stunning views. Cam Valley Crematorium has been operating for four years but hasn’t aged a day. A lot of pride has been taken here over the years, and this will continue.
“While our industry revolves around heartache and grief, there’s a great truth of the disparity between the negative and the positive; for every family who says goodbye with a tear, I witness a hello with a smile.
“Engaging with the community is extremely important as it shrugs way from the misty backdrop of what may be perceived as a dark institution, and paints a colourful picture filled with humanity and light because, at the end of the day, we are human and we want to help people.
“That’s why I would like to extend an invitation to everyone, whether you have experienced or are experiencing a loss, whether you need perspective or just need to chat.
“Our time is yours and our grounds offer a welcoming, peaceful space for reflection and thought.”