Man who cared

PUBLISHED: 02:01 02 June 2008 | UPDATED: 09:06 10 June 2010

A compassionate friend to Exmouth's mourners has died aged 81 as the town loses former funeral director Bert Smaldon. For two decades the Exmouth born and bred man, a part-time fire officer, was among the first people contacted by grieving families. Ded

A compassionate friend to Exmouth's mourners has died aged 81 - as the town loses former funeral director Bert Smaldon.For two decades the Exmouth born and bred man, a part-time fire officer, was among the first people contacted by grieving families.Dedicated to his job and the people he served, Mr Smaldon would be available day or night to make arrangements, and even turned his own living room over to the dozens of bouquets for funerals.When a knee injury robbed Mr Smaldon of his mobility, forcing him to give up fire duties and his business, he turned his attentions of the Exmouth Conservative Club, acting as branch secretary for many years.Wife June, 75, laid her husband to rest at Withycombe Parish Church last week, and said: "He was very compassionate to people, and was on duty 24 hours a day. The floral tributes would be kept at the house, so we had to cover the carpet in the living room with newspaper."His injury was a blow to him as the business was going really well, but he was constantly busy, and all of his friends told me he will be missed."The pair met when teenagers, both members of Exmouth's water polo teams that used to play at the outdoor swimming pool. Mr Smaldon was a regular member of Exmouth Cockles rugby team, and, as a fireman, commandeered boats to give help in Exmouth's flooded streets of 1960.A one time boat-builder, he moved into the funeral trade, setting up his own business in the mid-1950s. He and younger brother Maurice worked together as Smaldon Brothers, operating a dual funeral directors and builders' business - both sharing each others knowledge to build the family firm.Retirement was forced on Mr Smaldon in 1973, when his kneecap shattered jumping down from a fire engine while on duty. He eventually was forced to use a wheelchair from 2003.The Smaldons, of Parkside Drive, had three children, Keith, Janet and Clive, but suffered a loss when eldest son Keith died, aged 39. The couple, who celebrated their golden anniversary five years ago, had three grandchildren.

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