Member snapshot – Scott Bance from John Bance and Son Funeral Home

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For more than 40 years, Funeral Director John Bance attended to the needs of grieving Wagga families. Today, his son Scott carries on this tradition.

We spoke to both John and Scott about their observations of the changing face of their industry, their shared commitment to helping people and why telling someone you’re a Funeral Director is a sure-fire conversation stopper!

Committee 4 Wagga

Member snapshot

Scott Bance grew up around funerals.

When his father John became a Funeral Director in 1974, Scott was just 8. Many of his early memories are tied to living above the funeral home in Baylis Street.

“Funeral homes are a bit different now to what they were then,” Scott said.

“People always lived on the premises then, so we lived in the main street. It was interesting when my friends would come and stay. We were right next to Randy’s Nightclub, too, so that was quite interesting at 3am!” 

Fast forward to 1993 and Scott joined his father in the unconventional profession. The pair formed new firm John Bance & Son in 2003.

In that time Scott and John have seen major changes to the industry.

“Forty odd years ago, funerals were very simple. There was a Catholic or a Protestant service and that was the only difference really. Now, you have to be an audio technician, a film producer, a print organiser, everything,” John said. 

“Services are getting longer – a non-denominational service can be as long as a Requiem Mass. Once you’d have one eulogy, now you can have three or four, a photo display and lots of music,” Scott adds.

“Funerals are now recognised as a family event, a celebration of a life.

“People want their service to reflect their life, what they liked and their pastimes.

“And as Wagga changes, so do the funeral services. There are many different cultural groups and different ways that funerals are celebrated. We ask the family about their cultural beliefs and are here to facilitate their wishes. It’s a constant learning curve.

“When the riverboat was running in town, we had a couple of funerals on there… football ovals… town halls… private gardens… we have even had one in the main street of The Rock. As long as it’s legal, we’ll do our best to facilitate it.”

However, when asked about the most unusual request they have received, Scott spoke about a request they weren’t able to fulfil.

“We had a request from a man who was from Viking blood and he wanted a Viking funeral; to be put out onto a lake and a fiery arrow shot into it. We couldn’t facilitate that one.”

Despite increasing awareness about death and dying in the community, Scott says there is still a certain mystique that surrounds being a Funeral Director. 

“It certainly stops conversations! When people ask you what you do and you tell them, it just stops there.”

 John adds: “When you tell them, you see them sit back in their chairs, but in 10 minutes it’s, ‘Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?’ People are curious.”

Despite this reaction, Scott wouldn’t change his job for the world.

“It’s the contact you have with people,” he said.

“You can do the littlest thing – something that we think is quite insignificant – but at the time for them, it means a lot.”

For John, the most satisfying part was helping people when they needed help.

“You’d walk down the street weeks later – and people still do it to this day – shake hands or put their arm around you and say, ‘Thanks for what you did’.”

Both community men at heart, Scott and John have sponsored many charity events and served on many committees.

“We have a real sense of community, which was probably out the main reason we became members of Committee 4 Wagga,” Scott said.

“We see it as a good voice for the community and think it’s very important for the city.

“We sponsored a light in the Lights 4 Lake project for the same reason – community involvement.

It’s a great project that wouldn’t have happened without Committee 4 Wagga.”

NewsCristy Houghton