8 Funeral Professional Women You Should Know About

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Women have long been an important part of the funeral profession. Being that many funeral homes across the country started as (and remain) family owned and operated businesses, many moms and sisters have become funeral directors right alongside dads and brothers in order to help the local families in their community.

And each year, more and more women are studying to become funeral professionals and are going on to make a huge impact with their families in their community. In fact, 57% of today’s mortuary science students in the United States are women – many of them first-generation funeral directors.

So today, we are giving a big shout-out to all of the ladies out there that help to bring awareness and passion to the funeral profession. Specifically, these 8 women of funeral service who you should be paying attention to.

Pia Interlandi

Pia first entered the funeral profession through a unique way – fashion design. Yes, you heard us right. In addition to being a certified funeral celebrant who has worked in London with Clandon Wood Natural Burial Reserve, she also is a fashion designer who has extensively studied the effects of clothing and textiles on decomposition. Her project, [A]Dressing Death: Garments for the Grave lead her to create custom designed biodegradable burial garments with client family participation. Since then, she has had plenty of experience in the dressing of the deceased, each time more unique and personal than the last.

Carla Valentine

Carla’s website, The Chick and the Dead, describes her perfectly – she is a woman who works closely with the dead as a Mortuary Technician. While she has done everything from carrying out autopsies on hospital and forensic cases, to Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology in WWII graves in Belgium, she now is the Technical Curator at the Barts Pathology Museum. Her primary responsibility? “Restoring the 5000 anatomical pots to their former glory and teasing stories from the dead in a different way.” She talks about her job on YouTube and on her blog. Check her out!

Lauren LeRoy

It is no secret that we are a big fan of Lauren (and her blog, Little Miss Funeral) here at funeralOne. In fact, we liked her writing so much that we have asked her to write for our own blog several times. (Check out her last post here!) But who is the woman behind the writing? Lauren is a 24-year-old licensed funeral director in New York State. She took to her now notorious blog in March 2012 as a way to share her different thoughts and ideas on the funeral industry, and she’s been a hit ever since.

Alicia Carr

Alicia comes from a long line of funeral professionals, and her family-run business, Kelco Supply Company, has long been a supplier dedicated to serving funeral professionals with products their families will love. Since taking over as owner of Kelco Supply Co in 2004, not only has she worked hard to maintain her family’s commitment to service, but she also became board trustee of the Selected Independent Funeral Homes Education Trust – a group that provides support to the entire independent funeral home profession. Talk about a hard working woman.

Chanel Reynolds

Like many others who experience the world of funerals for the first time, Chanel entered through unfortunate circumstances. After becoming a widow and single mother when her husband was killed in an accident in 2009, she decided to spin the tragedy that she was facing into a positive, actionable plan – her website, Get Your Shit Together. This blunt, yet amazingly helpful website aims to give others the power to create wills, financial plans and insurance plans for their loved ones, helping to reduce the burden of suffering for those who may go through something similar to what she did. Now that she claims she “mostly” has her sh*t together, she is aiming to help others in the world.

Jessica Koth

Another funeralOne guest writer that we love to share the praises of is Jessica Koth. Currently the Public Relations Manager for the National Funeral Directors Association, Jessica is constantly sharing her take on the latest trends and news in the funeral profession, and getting director’s minds spinning. (Just check out her last guest blog which touches on the mistakes that funeral professionals make when it comes to cremation.)

Heather Ratcliff

If you are thinking about getting started in the funeral profession, or you would just like to read a beautifully-written take on what it is like to live, eat and breathe funerals, Heather’s blog, Mortuary Report, is a must-read. She first began writing about her tales and experiences in the profession while she was still in mortuary school, and is still writing now about both the amazing moments and the hardships of the the job years later. (She has just finished her two year embalming apprenticeship this past October.) A great read for anyone looking to take a deep dive into what it’s like starting out in the profession.

Sarah Wambold

Sarah is funeral director and embalmer in Austin, TX that has a very unique take on the profession. In addition to being a caretaker at Eloise Wood, Central Texas’ only natural burial cemetery, she is also working to open her own funeral home with an art gallery. She hopes that this innovative funeral home would help combine a place to process the dead with a gallery that would showcase the artwork of the local community. You can follow her journey through her American Funeral Home Revolution series.


Is there an amazing woman in the funeral industry that you would like to give a shout out to? Let us know who they are and why they are a positive force in the funeral profession in the comments below! We may even feature them in an upcoming blog.

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  1. Ellen Newman

    Where is Caitlin Doughty?

  2. Rachael Ryan

    As youv used my sisters picture (Louise Ryan) as the header- i would have thought you would have mentioned her in this, she was britains youngest female undertaker when she became 20 in 2008! I now have that title

  3. Rilee Chastain

    Hi Ellen, thanks for the comment! We’re a big fan of Caitlin Doughty and have featured her several times on our blog. As recent as last month actually – http://bit.ly/1Bu4SwN 🙂 So we wanted to feature some fresh faces in this article.

  4. Rilee Chastain

    Hi Rachael, thanks for the comment! There are so many amazing female funeral professionals out there that, unfortunately, we were not able to feature everyone in this article. Guess that just means we will have to do a Part Two here shortly 🙂 We’ve noted down her name!

  5. Lesley wallace

    Angela Powell of co-operative funeral care Caerphilly she was amazing taking care of both my parents funerals

  6. Rick Bissler

    I had the privilege of serving on the Selected Independent Funeral Homes Education Trust with Alicia Carr. She is very ambitious and her counsel and insight were very valuable. I am honored to call her a friend.

  7. Angela Powell

    Thank you Leskey Wallace for your touching comments, very much appreciated, guess I may be the oldest Female FD in Caerphilly lol

  8. Kristen Kern

    Jana Haldenwang, a huge figure in central NY. has guided many an apprentice, and has contributed so many hours to volunteer organizations like Rotary, as well as to the NYSFDA. May not have her own publications, but I believe she has made a huge difference through teaching compassion, generosity, tolerance and creativity to all she has taken under her guidance.

  9. gail willington

    An amazing company owned and ran by a wonderful, caring and passionate lady Gail Willington. Predominantly female staff

  10. Theresa Werner

    I would like to nominate Mary Appling of Unity Funeral Home in Houston, Texas. Began her career in the funeral industry over 20 years ago, put herself through school, became a Funeral Director. 10 years ago, bought the funeral home she was working out of. Nothing greater than a woman owned business – she’s worked HARD to get what she has today. You could never meet a more nicer woman than she is. She’s so professional in her job, has the heart of gold in helping families. Doesn’t advertise – the care that she gives families comes back, because they ALWAYS give her referrals – referrals are priceless. Became a Mom a young Mom,, her son now works for her and I help them with their preneed and when they have visitations. She has inspired me and her son to become Funeral Directors – hopefully we both will be taking our classes later this year.

  11. kateyanne

    Poppy Mardell of Poppy’s Simple Funerals in London ROCKS it.

  12. Tiffany Johnson

    Paulette Henderson- Funeral Director of Springfield, MA

    I LOVING CARING GOD FEARING WOMAN WHO LOVES HER COMMUNITY AND LOVEA SERVING HER COMMUNITY AND THE WORK.SHE DOES SPEAKS FOR HER. PLEASE FEATURE GER IN YIUR BLOG. THANK YOU!

  13. Kim Stacey

    I would like to give a “shout out” on behalf of two women: Kristan McNames, of Grace Funeral & Cremation Services, in Rockford, Illinois, and Elleanor Davis Starks, founder of the organization 100 Black Women of Funeral Service. Both women inspire me every day. Thanks for a fine post, Rilee.

  14. Mandy Fox

    I know you guys can’t add every great female funeral director on here, but I nominate Amy Fulton, who is currently our practical embalming teacher at Dallas Institute of Funeral Service. She is great and we learn so much from her. She is a great role model and is teaching many females to be the best embalmers we can be.

  15. John McGill

    It is wonderful to see dedicated, caring young women in this essential profession. Caroline McGill is another one of these young women. Caroline is a first generation, licensed funeral director in South Carolina. She is employed with J. Henry Stuhr Funeral Home in Charleston, SC. She is published (http://carolinemcgill.com/2013/06/24/when-funerals-are-beautiful/) in Southern Calls, a magazine for Funeral Directors. Her blog is at http://carolinemcgill.com. It is quite worth the read. Caroline has the ability to calmly, compassionately, and thoroughly walk families through the arrangements, effectively working through any hurdle encountered. She brings efficiency and effectiveness to the office processes, and endears herself to her coworkers.

  16. Rilee Chastain

    Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments. It’s evident that we have a lot of outstanding, passionate ladies in our profession! Stay tuned for a Part Two to this Funeral Professional Women You Should Know About blog, where we may feature the women you shared!

  17. April Simanoff

    These individuals are refreshing resources for other funeral professionals, and I will be taking the time to review their unique contributions for my web site. Each of them provides different experiences and areas of interest for our industry. The more areas of specialty I am able to peek into translates to a wider range of understanding, for the families I am truly blessed to shadow, during their launch into the grieving process.

  18. Savannah McGowan

    I would like to recognize Mrs. Naomi Sorrells at Hillcrest Funeral Home in Shelbyville, Tn. She began working at Hillcrest over 25 years ago as a secretary and later on obtained her funeral director’s license. She now manages the funeral home and cemetery all on her own. At age 75, she runs circles around many of the younger directors. I love to sit down and talk with her about the challenges she has faced in the business over the years.

  19. Susan Eggert

    Was really surprised not to see Glenda Stansbury on this list! In fact, disappointed.

  20. Rilee Chastain

    Hi Susan, thanks for the comment! There are so many great women in this industry that, unfortunately, we were not able to feature them all in one post! We are planning to do a Part 2 though, so stay tuned! You may see her there 🙂

  21. Kayla Wyser

    Hi! I’m a 20 year old going to American River College in Sacramento, CA. I have been working at the funeral home since I was 15; doing pick ups with my dad and tending to funerals. I hoping to get my embaling licenses after my funeral directing license so I can own my own funeral home in my home town of Orland, CA. I am probably the only person in my town that can work with dead bodies. I’d like to get connecting with other girls/guys like me.

  22. Joan Winfrey

    I am so proud of my daughter-in-law, Janice Winfrey, for being a funeral director with Sands Funeral Chapel of Duncan, BC. Being a small branch, she is often on call whether it be her days off or holidays or whatever. She fills in as driver for pick-ups, transport to other branches, taking services in Duncan, Nanaimo, Victoria, etc. Not too long ago she was the director at a service for a baby. Being a mother herself, albeit her child is a grown woman, it must have been so difficult to get through that service and give solace to the family. She deserves a shout out. Thank you.

  23. Deanna Dydynski

    Danielle Thacker, third generation owner of Thacker Caskets and funeral industry guru is taking her funeral industry knowledge and experience the the blog world. As more women enter the funeral business world its necessary to have a female’s perspective on business-related challenges. A college graduate of Villanova University with nearly 30 years in the industry, 8 of them specifically dedicated to learning and improving the way funeral home’s operate as legitimate businesses, Danielle has proven to be a savvy and trusted business consultant. Her blog creates awareness of the challenges funeral homes face today and the education and problem-solving skills to solve them. Check out funeralgal.com for information on how to grow your business!

  24. Melanie Oberting

    I am just starting my research. I am married and 56, kids just left for college. My husband is open to it and I’m hoping Ernie Rota of Claffey & Rota in Napa will consider selling his business. He built the funeral home in Napa, CA, 50 years ago and is still working it at 91 years of age, with his wife! Thank you for the comments listed with each woman; I’m definitely going to read several blogs. I noticed funeralone did their local website/page. It looks very good. i pray that it be a good, right ministry for me/us. I wouldn’t mind taking an online course and “working” another 20 years. I think Napa should definitely have more than one funeral home. My phone number is 707-287-6449 if anyone wants to give me verbal advice. It seems like a fascinating, meaningful life, helping others deal with grief.

  25. tasha slayton, lfd, cpc

    HOW MANY OF THESE WOMEN ARE LICENSED FUNERAL DIRECTORS – WHERE ARE THE OUTSTANDING AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN OF FUNERAL PROFESSION? SHOULD BE AT LEAST DIVERSIFY WITH ALL THE TALENT AVAILABLE.

  26. Noelle Kristine

    I love reading your blogs. I am trying to finish my Mortuary Science program, and find apprentice work. It’s Ben such such a struggle. I am surrounded by such negativity about wanting to do this that I just keep it to my self and have no support group. I have had jobs working in the field, but nothing lasting because I have not taken my board exam yet. It’s Ben a long road 5 years now trying to finish. I very expensive, and much time is needed to study. If you have any food for thought and maybe any ideas on how I can get my foot back in the door to do what my heart is telling me, please answer.