It has been almost a mystery why many prominent people in Kenya are taken to the Lee Funeral Home when they die.
An even bigger mystery is who owns the Lee Funeral Home which is known for being the last home on earth for most of Kenya’s high and mighty.
But an interview in 2018 reveals the man behind the very successful mortuary whose business connections and returns must be the envy of many.
Funeral Home Trust by the British in Kenya
While there is no glamour in death, the business of death has proven over time that no money is bad money.
From people raiding tombs to steal expensive coffins to many others becoming millionaires embalming the dead, death has proven to be a worthwhile investment for the living. If the Lee Funeral home is anything to go by, then by no means is death to be feared. There is money in it.
The Lee Funeral Home is one of the few British citizens living in Kenya trust to do a perfect job when they are preparing their loved ones for their final rites.
According to the British High Commission in Nairobi, the best funeral homes would be two based in Mombasa and one in Nairobi.
Also, read about this woman who is in love with the dead.
The Lee Funeral is preferred because according to the Commission, the company has English speaking staff.
Communication is important and so this is important not just for the British but for anyone who needs help when they are grieving.
In addition to many other offerings which make it a preferable choice for the British, the Lee Funeral Home is joined by the Tonny Funeral Services and Janam Funeral Services which are based in Mombasa.
The Business of Death
Founded in 1987, the Lee Funeral Home is owned by John Stuart Lee who is the founder and CEO.
In the interview, Lee says he was born, raised and educated in Nairobi. He says that he went to the UK after his education in Nairobi and joined the police force there.
It is while working with the police that he was put to work at a hospital in Cambridge where he got a hang of how funeral homes run.
“I was born and educated here in Nairobi and in 1963 my parents and I went back to the UK and then in 1964 I joined the main police force and after a while they put me into Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge to work for the coroner’s office so I was dealing with pathologists and the undertakers every day,” says Lee.
His coming back to Kenya in 1968 heralded the beginning of a new era for mortuaries in Kenya with the City Mortuary being the main one which was, according to Lee, in an appalling state.
He says, “When I came back to Kenya in 1968 and was told of the appalling state of City Mortuary, I was then being asked by various people can you help us to set up our funeral because we don’t want to go to City Mortuary ourselves and that’s where I got the idea from.”
Interestingly, for his proclivity to the finer things in life including the British culture itself, Charles Njonjo was very instrumental in the coming up of the Lee Funeral Home.
Lee says that the birth of the Lee Funeral Home was due to his work at the holding room of Nairobi Hospital and the City Mortuary.
“Whilst I was working out of City Mortuary and the holding room at Nairobi Hospital before we ever built where we are now at Nairobi Hospital, Sir Charles Njonjo who was then the chairman of Nairobi Hospital called me up and he said, would you like to build a funeral parlour on the grounds of Nairobi Hospital? So we built the current Lee Funeral Home within the grounds of the hospital in 87 and we opened in 1988 during the 25 years celebration of Independence of the Republic of Kenya,” Lee adds.
Funeral Home Charges
As the first funeral home in East Africa, Lee Funeral Home has grown with time seeing the demand for its services rise.
Within Nairobi, the funeral parlour will charge you anything from Sh5,000 to collect the body from home and Sh 3,000 daily for storage.
Coffins at the funeral home go for anything between Sh35,000 to Sh130,000.
For the body handling, which includes washing and dressing, the cost is Sh5,000 while a Jaguar hearse would see you cough up at least Sh130,000 for transport within Nairobi.
Other charges are dependent on the needs and demands of those seeking services at the funeral home.
Going by these packages, the high and mighty can still afford to splurge the amounts without feeling a pinch since it is pocket change.
But for the man who runs the Lee Funeral Home, his is to offer the bereaved live funeral home to give first-class quality service and look after the deceased until the time of either cremation or internment.
“Yes. And generally, look after the bereaved family. That’s what we’re there for,” concludes Lee.