STAFF at an independent funeral directors in Basingstoke are ‘heartbroken and devastated’ following the death of the owner of the business, as tributes pour in.

Jonathan Williams Independent Funeral Directors, in Essex Road, announced that its founder, Jonathan Williams, died on Sunday, June 16.

In a post on social media, it said: “This is one post I thought I’d never have to put up on here. Jonathan, our colleague, friend and most importantly our boss passed away.”

Jonathan Williams (Image: Jonathan Williams Independent Funeral Directors) It said everyone was “heartbroken and devastated”, but vowed to continue the business, adding: “We will continue to keep his name, his business and love for the industry he adored as he would have wanted.”

Tributes have poured in for the 51-year-old father-of-one who opened the family-owned and managed business in Basingstoke in 2007 after working at another funeral business in the town and deciding he wanted to go it alone.

The former implementation manager for an investment company, who studied pharmacology at what is now Portsmouth university, moved into the funeral sector after the unexpected death of his father, who passed away just weeks before his daughter was born.

In a former interview with the Gazette, he said: “I had a huge mix of emotions – feeling guilty for being happy and guilty for being sad.

“It made me reassess my life and I realised that while I had a reasonably good career working for an investment company, it wasn’t rewarding. I didn’t hate the job, but I didn’t get anything from it.”

He described his role in the community as a “privilege” and “the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life”.

Jonathan’s younger brother James said he took comfort from “remembering the entirety of my life with you at my side - the births, the deaths, the good times and awful times with your big hand on my shoulder”.

Posting on social media he added: “Rest easy brother I said it on Sunday when we had to say goodbye – love doesn’t die, I love you x.”

Jo Phillips, branch office manager at Jonathan Williams Independent Funeral Directors, described her boss as “my mentor, my best friend, my go-to for advice and the brother I never had”.

She added: “He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime nearly 18 years ago and I always said how grateful to him I was for that, trusting me and taking me under his wing and making me the person I am today workwise when no one else would. Thank you doesn’t even come close.

“From the bottom of my heart I am going to miss you so much. I promise to keep everything going and to make you proud.”

Dozens of other tributes have been made to Jonathan on the company’s Facebook page.

Katy Athroll said: “Jonathan had the biggest and kindest of hearts I ever came across. Thank you for being a big part of my life and the many years of memories I will cherish forever. Rest easy Jon you are sorely missed by everyone.”

Vicki Covington described Jonathan as “such a gentleman” who “helped so many families”.

Phil Wilds, a former school friend, expressed his shock at the news, saying: “He gave my dad a fantastic and incredibly respectful send off, for which me and my family will be forever grateful. Such sad news.”