About Steve Baldwin
Is it who I am or what I do?
Born in Saint John, I am one of the six children of Jessie and the Late Nicholas Baldwin. In 1973, the Baldwin's moved to Campbellton where I graduated from Sugarloaf Senior High School in 1978. I have always loved working with the public. When I was 15, a school friend and I owned and operated an ice-cream store in Campbellton. At 16, I took a summer job working in the kitchen of the Provincial Hospital (later called Restigouche Hospital Centre). At 17, I returned to the Hospital, but as a Psychiatric Attendant III, on the geriatric units, where I continued to work for the next few summers and for a year after graduation.
In the fall of 1979, I went to UNB to take business and in the spring of 1980 I began my career at Maher's Funeral Home. While home from University for the summer, my father suggested I apply for a job at Maher’s Funeral Home. I was in a complete state of shock that he thought this was the place for me. I had only been in a funeral home twice in my life. Once when I was in grade 10 when a friend’s father passed away, and again in January of that year when my grandfather passed away. So for the life of me, I couldn’t imagine why he thought I would want a job in a funeral home. With my father’s encouragement (to say the least), I met with Holt Maher and his son Noonan and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1981, my father had a heart attack and being in the funeral industry, I suggested to my mother that we should prearrange dad’s funeral, “just in case,” I said, not thinking anything would ever happen, after all he was as strong as an ox and bigger than life. Three years later he died at the age of 58. I was working for Lloyd Mallory at Tuttle Funeral Home in Moncton and for the first time in my life I knew what it was like to have someone I really love and admire die. It was so different being on the other side of the desk from the funeral director arranging dad’s funeral. I was so glad that everything had been prearranged, so many decisions to make and so little time. People have all the time in the world to plan the perfect wedding, birthday or anniversary celebrations but we only had a few days to plan a “Celebration of Life” that was truly a tribute befitting my dad. On the day of his funeral I was the last person to leave the visitation room in the funeral home. Everyone else had gone to their cars to leave for the church. As I knelt there at my dad’s casket and said good bye, I thanked him for always being my inspiration and the supporter of my life as a funeral director.
As a young apprentice, I was taught that you always wore a shirt, tie and jacket when going to pick up a person who had passed away. It showed respect for the living and the dead. You always held the door, spoke politely and gave a friendly smile, but, as a young person in the funeral industry I quickly realized that, the job was much more than that. Being a Funeral Director had to come first, before anything else. If I was off for a weekend and the funeral home was busy I would get a call and go in. Death knows no time, and does not care if it is a holiday, a weekend or a special time for your family. A funeral director must be dedicated to those who are in need no matter when or where the death may occur. It is a 24 hour, 7 day a week commitment that offers little more than an opportunity to help those in need with sincerity, compassion and understanding.
With this dedication, soon one day lead into another and days into weeks and weeks into months and then years, 33 years just slipped by. The calendar doesn’t mean much to a funeral director, when duty calls we must be there for other people’s family before our own. Like most young funeral directors with a young family, I missed most birthdays and Christmas’. Just as we would get into a celebration of one kind or another the phone would ring and off I’d go, putting on my suit and saying the appropriate salutation, “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas”, I’ll be back soon and leave for work. My family are quite used to hearing, “no, I can’t pick you up” or “no, I can’t be there, I have a funeral.” I was in the funeral industry about 10 years, when I realized who and what I had become, without even knowing it…“A Funeral Director”. It was no longer what I did but who I was. My occupation had become a “vocation”, a calling; it was what I was meant to be. I felt it was God’s purpose for me.
Over the past 33 years, I was employed at Maher’s Funeral Home until 1981, when I relocated to Moncton where I received my embalmer and funeral director's license while employed at Tuttle Brothers Funeral Home.
In 1990, I accepted Flo Ross's offer to join the "Wallace Team" in Sussex and in 1994 purchased the company. All of my mentors had a similar philosophy of caring and compassion, but it was Flo who said it the best, “Service before Self”, “Wallace Funeral Home has been committed to our families since 1893 and we must, must, must treat every family as if they were our own”, she’d say. It was with that, that she retired and left me to carry on that Wallace Tradition. It has been 10 years and her words still resonate in my ears. It is a motto that I can easily live by; it comes naturally to me to treat every person as if they were my own family. That’s just who I am, I don’t just bury the dead. I am truly honored when someone entrusts their loved one to my care. After all, you don’t trust just anyone with something that means as much to you as a loved one.
Not all funeral directors share my sentiment on being emotionally involved with the families we serve. I want to be as involved as the family wants me to be, sometimes they may need a hug and at other times want some space. I feel I need to be apart of what ever they are going through. If they need to cry, then I cry with them and through the pain if I can bring a hint of a smile, even for a brief moment then maybe I’ve helped a little.
It was through the influence of the many good funeral directors and co-workers I worked with, that I became the funeral director I am today.
Since my dad passed away, I have lost pre-mature twins, my wife MaryEllen at the age of 34, both sets of grandparents, as well as aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Through each one of these losses, God gave me a very special gift, the gift of truly understanding the loss of a loved one. When someone sits across the arrangement table from me discussing funeral arrangements, I can honestly say, “I understand, I’ve been there, I am here to help, we’ll get through this”.
In 1998, my life took another turn. God brought me a gift from the big city of Minto, and with her came two beautiful girls. On December 31st, 1999, Barb and I were married and my family has not stopped growing. My son Stephen is now 31, Sarah is 27, Tara is 25, and Tasha 21. I also have seven grandchildren: Connor, Mathew, Logan, Joseph, Abigail, Alexis and Molly.
I am so very proud to be part of this community. Since my vocation must come first, I am not as active as I would like to be the organizations I am involved in. I am a member of St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, and a former member of the Church Counsel and Building Committee. I am a member and past president of the Sussex and Area Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Sussex Valley Council #8213 of the Knights of Columbus, a member of Zion Lodge #21 F&AM, a member and Past President of the Sussex Shrine Club, a member of the Maple Leaf Shrine Unit and Luxor Temple, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion #20, the Sussex Kiwanis Club, the New Brunswick Embalmers and Funeral Directors Association, the Canadian Independent Funeral Homes and The National Funeral Directors Association. I have an article in the “Choices after 50” publication, deliver meals on wheels and I am also the local representative for the IWK.
It is what I do.
“Why”? I have been asked why many times. Why, when picking someone up in the middle of the night, would I get up and put on a suit and tie? Why, would I work on a holiday, a weekend or at other times when most people are off and spending time with their families? Why, would I venture out into bad weather to go and get someone who has passed away when I could be inside warm and snug? Why, do I work such long hours? Why would I want to work in an unusual occupation that can be at times very unpleasant, especially when dealing in cases of an accident, fire, or untimely death of a young person or child? And why, would I want to surround myself with people who are in such emotional despair, grief stricken and in the depths of sadness? As a funeral director, I face answering these and other “why” questions often. I can’t speak for all funeral directors but…for me, this is why.
It is a calling, a plan set out for me by God. It is an opportunity to help others at a time in their lives when they are at their lowest. It is a vocation unlike any other. Some might not understand this answer but, my job is not work at all, long hours, late nights, being flexible and adaptable, doing what ever it takes and above all, genuinely care about the families I have had the privilege to serve is what my vocation is all about.
In my experience people who are mourning, don’t want sympathy, they want understanding and assurance that they will survive their loss. Walking a mile in their shoes brings a shared sense of what they are going through. I have had so many people take comfort in the fact that I have suffered my own losses and am able to understand their hurt. Although, no two people grieve the same way, I can honestly say I understand the feeling of loss. I think my mother said it best after MaryEllen died, “the death of someone you love is like the pain of arthritis, it is something that never goes away, you just learn to deal with it”. After talking to many people who have experienced loss and sharing my own, I must agree with her. You don’t have to dwell on your loss, but its there, just an ache away.
I have heard many times “that must be nice” or “if I had his money”, but, I have never been asked to trade jobs. The truth is there isn’t enough money out there for me ever to trade jobs. My life has never been about the job or money. It's about making a difference, you can’t buy what I have to offer. I give it freely…it is sincerity, honesty, compassion, and dedication. I am your funeral director, your friend, your advisor; I am the person that will catch you when you fall. It wasn’t until my first wife, MaryEllen, died in 1996 that I realized how short life really is. When it's my turn to die, I would like people to say that, I was the like the funeral directors before me at Wallace Funeral Home, that I was there when I was needed and made a difference when their loved one died.
So the when someone asks “why?” with head held high, I proudly but humbly say; “Because I’m a funeral director. It’s who I am, not just what I do.”