Meet Sheryl Folpp: Funeral director at Muswellbrook and Scone Funeral Services

LOCAL: Sheryl Folpp outside the office of Muswellbrook and Scone Funeral Services in Muswellbrook. Picture: Mathew Perry

LOCAL: Sheryl Folpp outside the office of Muswellbrook and Scone Funeral Services in Muswellbrook. Picture: Mathew Perry

Funeral director Sheryl Folpp, of Muswellbrook and Scone Funeral Services, says she often isn't quite sure how to respond initially when people ask what she does for work.

"When you go out socially and people ask 'What do you do?', I always think twice about how I'm going to respond. So usually I just say we have a business and then of course, if they're not happy with that, I'll say 'Well I'm actually a funeral director,' and the most common response I get is 'I didn't see that coming'."

Ms Folpp said she often gets told she "doesn't look like a funeral director".

"I think when people think of a funeral director they picture an older man in a suit and not a younger woman," Ms Folpp said.

"I kind of have fun with that reaction because people go, 'Well, I never expected that!'"

Ms Folpp said she was born in Muswellbrook Hospital and went to school in the area before her family moved to Tamworth where she finished year 12.

After graduating Ms Folpp said she moved to Sydney for 12 years, where she completed a diploma in hospitality management and went on to work for various hotels and German engineering company Siemens.

After returning to Muswellbrook, Ms Folpp met her now-husband John Folpp and worked for the Council and the Department of Corrective Services as she and John raised two children.

John and Sheryl would go on to take over the Folpp family business, established by John's parents Winston and Fay in 1983, after Winston passed away in 2016.

After several years working in the funeral services industry, Ms Folpp said she doesn't see her current career as a job, but as more of a "calling".

"I just think I'm lucky and I feel honoured and privileged to get to do what I get to do every day," Ms Folpp said.

"I believe that you're put on this Earth to do something and this is what I was meant to do. I don't see it as a job, I see it as more of a calling or a service and I often say I love my job, which probably sounds a bit strange considering what I do, but I do absolutely.

"I love the ability to be able to help people and obviously it's in one of the worst times of their lives."

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional challenges to the job, however, and Ms Folpp said it had been a challenging time particularly when families had been separated and unable to attend funerals due to COVID restrictions and border closures.

"For me personally, it's been terribly difficult," Ms Folpp said of the pandemic-related restrictions, "We've seen and heard some really, really sad things because of COVID. One that stays with me was a gentleman whose father passed away and he was in Queensland for work and obviously could not travel to the funeral.

"So he had to farewell his father over an iPhone. For a while you could only have 10 people at a funeral, which was quite sad for many families."

Ms Folpp also said while many people found it difficult to discuss, she believed many families would benefit from speaking more openly about death and funerals.

"I always say, it's nothing to be afraid of, obviously, and unfortunately, it's going to visit all of us at some point," Ms Folpp said.

"When someone has passed away, people don't know what to say and so they avoid saying anything but often I really don't know what to say either.

"I think if people were to acknowledge it that it would be much better and I often say, it's not when people have initially passed away that they need that connection, it's actually when the funeral is over and they've returned back to their normal life."

Ms Folpp said it's in these times that she makes sure to get in touch with families for a "welfare check".

"I give all my families my personal mobile number and I say to them, just ring and say hi. If you're having a bad day or something, just please reach out," she said.

Outside of the family business, Ms Folpp said she was thankful to live and work in the Upper Hunter, with the company providing funeral services as far as Merriwa, Sandy Hollow and Murrurundi.

"I'm really glad that I brought my children up here," Ms Folpp said.

"There's a real sense of community, of people caring for each other and all of those things that you wouldn't get in a larger city. You probably wouldn't even know your neighbour in Sydney."