7 MORE Women Funeral Professionals You Should Know About

funeralOne Women Funeral Professionals

We have to say… the ladies of the funeral profession have been killin’ it this year. (No pun intended.) From the amazing women who led the educational conferences at NFDA 2015 to some seriously exciting career advancements that will make an overall positive impact on the industry… we have never been more proud of the talented women that we work alongside.

Earlier this year, we wrote a blog post highlighting 8 Women Funeral Professionals You Should Know About, and we were blown away by the positive feedback we received. Women and men from all across the profession logged on to give these ladies a much-deserved congratulations, and to nominate many other hard-working women in the funeral profession who deserve to have their passion showcased to the world.

So… we’re back with round two! Here are seven more women in the funeral profession who have been working hard to educate, celebrate and bring passion to this industry. Thank you for all that you do!

1. Jana Haldenwang

Earlier this year when we asked our readers to share some of the most notable women in this profession, Jana was one of the first names mentioned… and with good reason! Not only is Jana a licensed funeral director, she is also a certified bereavement facilitator from the American Academy of Bereavement and the president of the Tri-County Funeral Directors Association.

“[She’s] 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,” wrote her nominator. “I believe she has made a huge difference through teaching compassion, generosity, tolerance and creativity to all she has taken under her guidance.”

2. Kristan McNames

It’s no secret that we here at funeralOne are a big fan of Kristan McNames – we publish her super educational and informative guest posts whenever we get the chance! But, when Kristan isn’t sharing her expertise on the funeralOne blog, she is finding time to be a funeral director, a business owner, a wife and a mom.

After tiring of the corporate funeral world, Kristan opened Grace Funeral and Cremation Services in 2009 with her husband Bob, who is also a funeral director. Their goal was to throw out the corporate sales targets that had infiltrated their world, and instead, put the focus back on making services memorable for families. “A funeral can either bring peace and comfort to a family, or it can add to their burden.  It’s our job to make it meaningful and special for the families that choose us,” she writes. They have been doing just that ever since.

3. Elleanor Davis Starks

Another phenomenal nominee that we received after publishing our last Women In The Funeral Profession blog was Elleanor Davis Starks. In 1993, Elleanor founded 100 Black Women of Funeral Service, Inc. ﹘ a network for black women and minorities in the professional funeral service industry. This hallmark organization has since grown to include scholarships, awards and powerful luncheons where women can gather together to discuss important topics in the profession and help one another find success.

“It is very important that women stand out in this profession,” Elleanor writes. “We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. We should be proud of each other’s successes. Women are some of the best embalmers and funeral directors, and we keep the families coming back.  I am proud of my sisters. If you don’t have a woman in your firm you are missing something really special.”

4. Caroline McGill

As a blogger, I am constantly looking for educational and interesting takes on the funeral profession – both to inspire me and to share with our own readers. One of my favorite people to turn to when I am looking to be inspired is Caroline McGill. In addition to being a licensed funeral director and embalmer in Charleston, Caroline also runs a personal blog where she writes about her experiences in the profession.

One of my favorite excerpts: “There aren’t many things about death that are beautiful, but it is my job as a funeral professional to make more of them come into being. Preparing the body, washing hair, buttoning shirts, tying ties, painting nails, positioning in the casket…. All of it to be sure the good memories are talked about, laughed about, and held onto for just a little while longer … As you open your hymnal to “How Great Thou Art,” we stand in the back and sing along because we know it by heart. And it is beautiful.”

Needless to say, Caroline’s blog is worth the read.

5. Stephanie Longmuir

As we mentioned earlier, one of the areas in which women have especially excelled this year is through leadership in continuing education sessions. One of my favorite events at NFDA 2015 last month was Stephanie Longmuir’s session on the important role that funeral celebrants play in a funeral service.

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Stephanie has lead hundreds of funeral services over the years, from four people to four hundred, from simple graveside committals to extravagant all day memorials, from a motorcade of 100 motorcycles to a moment of silent tribute in a park, and more. As a celebrant, her focus is on providing a funeral service that reflects the wishes, beliefs, values and cultural background of the family and their loved one, so they may find some comfort in the process. She is truly a ceremony specialist with a thorough background in the history of ritual, ceremony and funeral traditions, and the education that she is providing other funeral directors who are looking to become celebrants is invaluable.

(Ps. Be on the lookout for an exclusive post from Stephanie on the topic of funeral celebrants – coming soon to the funeralOne blog!)

6. Amy Fulton

There are few people in this profession who are doing more powerful or impactful work than the people who are teaching the funeral directors of the future. Amy Fulton is one of those people. Currently an embalmer at Service Corporation International (SCI), as well as an educator at AAS Dallas Institute of Funeral Service, Amy’s personal mission is to restore the value of the embalming and presentation of the deceased to all families, including those wishing cremation.

According to the student who nominated Amy in our last post, “Amy Fulton, who is currently our practical embalming teacher at Dallas Institute of Funeral Service … 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.”

7. Jessica Fowler

Another woman funeral blogger that we can’t be inspired enough by is Jessica Fowler. Jessica is the Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer at ASD – Answering Service for Directors. In the span of 10+ years, she has answered the calls of funeral homes nationwide, fielding more than 350,000 calls and 16,000 first calls. She’s also been featured in several trade publications, sharing her expertise on funeral trends, technology, communication and business planning.

With this impressive experience under her belt, it’s safe to say that Jessica has a strong pulse on what’s happening in the profession – both from a funeral professional’s perspective, and from their families.

(Check out the guest post she wrote for funeralOne earlier this year, where she shared 7 helpful tips on selling the value of a funeral service over the phone.) 

We are lucky enough to have an amazing number of impressive, passionate women in the funeral profession. In fact, we have so many inspiring ladies that work alongside us, that we could never begin to list them all in just two blogs… so we want your help!

Is there a woman in the funeral industry that constantly inspires and motivates you? Be sure to share their name and their story in the comments below! We may just feature them in a Part Three blog post! 

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  1. Kevin rich

    Janet L. Graff she’s been a funeral director and embalmer for 28 years in Louisville Kentucky. She’s 45 years old and is an asset to the profession since the early age of 18, she is very proud and dedicated and absolutely loves being a funeral director. She has met with hundreds of families and treats them As she would her own family because its personal to her. She is a member of national and state professional associations to include the national association of professional women NAPW. On a similar level has also served as deputy coroner for 7 years. Professional, Dedicated, Personal, Experienced, and a Woman. 5 great qualities that makes her great at her profession.

  2. Jeff Harbeson

    Thanks for sharing Rilee…of course you are on the list! Keep up the content, I’m a fan. Jeff

  3. Patricia Mahoney

    Kristan McNames is my daughter. She and her husband stand out in the funeral industry. Thanks for recognizing her and their business.

  4. Gail Rubin

    Consider Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death®. She is a tireless death educator who uses humor and funny films to draw people to the pre-need funeral planning conversation. She recently did a TEDx talk on the topic: https://youtu.be/r9qR4ZiGX2Y

    Gail wrote the award-winning book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, and also hosts a TV interview series and Internet radio show on FuneralRadio.com by the same name. She writes about funeral topics at The Family Plot Blog and contributes articles to ICCFA Magazine, Mortuary Management, Funeral Business Advisor and other publications.