A New Zealand man has been given an extraordinary send-off in a coffin resembling a giant doughnut.
When the pallbearers brought Phil McLean’s coffin into the chapel, there were gasps before a wave of laughter rippled through hundreds of mourners.
“It overshadowed the sadness and the hard times in the last few weeks,” said his widow, Debra. “The final memory in everyone’s mind was of that doughnut, and Phil’s sense of humour.”
The doughnut was the latest creation by Mr McLean’s cousin Ross Hall, who runs a business in Auckland called Dying Art which custom-builds colourful coffins.
Other creations by Mr Hall include a yacht, a fire engine, a chocolate bar and Lego blocks.
There have been glittering coffins covered in fake jewels, a coffin inspired by the movie The Matrix, and plenty depicting people’s favourite beaches and holiday spots.
“There are people who are happy with a brown mahogany box and that’s great,” said Mr Hall. “But if they want to shout it out, I’m here to do it for them.”
The idea first came to him about 15 years ago when he was writing a will and contemplating his own death.
“How do I want to go out?” he thought to himself, deciding it would not be like everyone else. “So I put in my will that I want a red box with flames on it.”
Six months later, Mr Hall, whose other business is a signage and graphics company, decided to get serious.
He approached a few funeral directors who looked at him with interest and scepticism but over time the idea took hold.
Mr Hall begins with specially made blank coffins and uses fibreboard and plywood to add details, with a latex digital printer used for the designs.
Some orders are particularly complex, like the yacht, which included a keel and rudder, cabin, sails, metal railings and pulleys.
Depending on the design, the coffins retail for between about 3,000 and 7,500 New Zealand dollars (£1,500-£4,000).
Mr Hall said the tone of funerals has changed markedly over recent years.
“People now think it’s a celebration of life rather than a mourning of death,” he said.
Ms McLean said she and her late husband, who was 68 when he died in February, used to tour the country in their motorhome and Phil loved comparing cream doughnuts in every small town, considering himself something of a connoisseur.
He considered a good donut one that was crunchy on the outside, airy in the middle, and definitely made with fresh cream.
After he was diagnosed with bowel cancer, he had time to think about his funeral and, along with his wife and cousin, came up with the idea for the doughnut coffin.
Ms McLean said they even had 150 donuts delivered to the funeral in Tauranga from Phil’s favourite bakery in Whitianga, more than 100 miles away.
Mr Hall said his coffins are biodegradable and are usually buried or cremated with the deceased.
The only one he got back is his cousin’s because he used polystyrene and shaping foam, which is not environmentally friendly.
Mr McLean was switched to a plain coffin for his cremation and Mr Hall said he will keep the doughnut creation forever.