KIND SOULS: Myra and Rob Phipps. Rob is Taroom's last funeral director, having retired last month.
KIND SOULS: Myra and Rob Phipps. Rob is Taroom's last funeral director, having retired last month. Contributed

Family business spanning more than a century comes to an end

A FAMILY business spanning more than a century has come to an end, as Taroom's last funeral director retires.

Rob Phipps retired in December, after promising to hold the position until his 80th birthday, which was on December 12.

Rob's son Ian Phipps said his father was the last in a family history of undertaking in Taroom spanning more than a century.

"John, aka Jack, Kehl started it around 1904. He started the whole business where he made the coffins and everything in town," Ian said.

Jack's son-in-law Lloyd Phipps and Arthur Smith started running the business in 1949.

"They continued until Morgan Kehl returned and took it back over," he said.

"And then, when Morgan passed away, Lloyd took it over wholly and solely."

Ian said his father, Rob, was Lloyd's nephew, who helped Lloyd as an apprentice for a number of years before taking over when Lloyd retired.

"Then as he (Rob) was getting on into his elder years, the Banana Shire Council said 'look, we'll operate the business if you just be the funeral director for us', and he made a promise that he'd do it until he was 80 years of age," Ian said.

He has strong memories of his father and mother helping grieving families.

"Families would come up to our house and Dad would help them through the grieving process and help them through all the processing of the death certificate, what you've got to do... so it was a little bit more than just being an undertaker, it was also a bit of counselling and a shoulder to lean on.

"The thing I can always remember is that he always took the time... people would come to him weeks after the funeral and just sit and talk with him and normally Mum.

"They'd sit on the front veranda and it was just how they helped the people through the dark days.

"People, they need somebody to talk to outside the family and he's an old bushy type bloke so there's no flowering things up, it's pretty 'this is what happens' and very honest conversations."

In his years as the Taroom and district funeral director, Rob Phipps has laid to rest more than 360 people.


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