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September 27, 2004

Funeral director by day - star by night

From: ic, UK - Sep 27, 2004

Sep 27 2004

By Justine Halifax, Evening Mail

A career as a funeral director might sound a sombre prospect, but for Helen McMahon it's a dream come true.

It's something the 28-year-old, of Wylde Green, Sutton Coldfield has wanted to do since she was just nine after attending her first funeral.

In fact the former John Wilmott High School pupil says she loves the job so much that if she scooped the jackpot on the lottery she would still go to work and wouldn't want paying for it.

Helen, who works for Midland Co-Op Funeral Services across north Birmingham, is now one of only a few people in the country to gain a diploma in funeral directing at her age.

But her partner Chris England, aged 38, who manages company pensions for a Birmingham company, and mother Elizabeth McMahon, a teacher at Wilson Stuart Special School in Erdington, both think she's mad.

"This job really is a dream come true for me," said Helen, who is almost completely deaf and has to lip read.

But by night Helen switches from the grim day job to a brighter affair as a member of two amateur dramatic groups, Erdington Players and Trinity Players in Sutton.

She said: "I was nine when I went to my first funeral and I was mesmerised by everyone and everything about it so I decided there and then that it was the career for me."

Helen, who completed a degree in art and design at Wolverhampton University, said: "I always wanted to go to uni but I soon as I finished I started working at Ian Howell's funeral directors in Mere Green.

"I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but I thoroughly enjoy it.

"It it gives me so much satisfaction."

As a funeral director Helen, who has worked for Midland Co-op for almost 18 months, is responsible for everything from collecting deceased loved ones to conducting the funeral service and even the staff rotas.

Hazel France, regional manager for the Co-op Funeral Services in Birmingham, said: "Helen really is one in a million. What she has achieved is remarkable for someone of 28. We are always on the receiving end of comments from families of appreciation for all that Helen does for them."

Copyright Trinity Mirror Plc 2004