Meet the Speakers
Founder and CEO Knuckleball Comedy
Ethan Blumenthal knows firsthand what it takes to communicate, and listen. A professional speaker and comedian, Ethan has made it his mission to positively impact the lives of thousands of people around the country through Knuckleball Comedy’s leadership, active listening, and team building workshops. Since its inception in 2016, Ethan has brought energy, unique exercises, and laughter to over 16,000 people of all ages, including 1st grade teachers, executives at Fortune 500 companies, funeral directors, and everything in between.
Before becoming a comedian, Ethan graduated Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Beloit College in May 2014, where he was a four-year varsity letter winner on the baseball team and academic all-conference. Following graduation, he moved to Brisbane, Australia, to play on a professional baseball team in the Australian Baseball League in the 2014-2015 season. In addition to performing and teaching comedy, Ethan has written professionally for the satirical sports newspaper The Heckler and the sports media company Fansided.
When he’s not running his business, you can find him wreaking havoc on the tennis and basketball courts or singing along to one of his favorite musicals. Ethan is a fierce competitor who most notably defeated 7x NBA All-Star Anthony Davis in the Illinois High School 3-Point Shooting Contest. AD still isn’t over it.
Learning Lab - Presentation, Public Speaking, and Laughing Out Loud
J. Mark Busch
Founder and CXOAI Intuitive/CX Coach
As the former co-owner of Busch Funeral and Crematory Services and Normandy Insurance Agency, Mark has spent more than 40 years working in the service business.
After specializing in creating and delivering high-provide personalized services, Mark is now a licensed and certified customer experience (CX) coach utilizing The Dijulius Group methodology. He is also the founder and chief experience officer (CXO) of AI Intuitive.
Established in 2021, Al Intuitive incorporates customer experience (CS) training with AI-powered technology, enabling organizations to improve their overall customer experience capabilities.
Leveraging The DiJulius Group’s Customer Experience Revolution Methodology and AI-powered technology solutions, their team can create an immersive, interactive, hands-on coaching experience to improve customer interactions and employee and employee and company performance overall.
Executive DirectorOhio Suicide Prevention Foundation
As Executive Director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, Tony leads the charge to support community-based efforts in Ohio to reduce the stigma of suicide, promote education and awareness about suicide prevention, provide training and development, and increase resources and programs that reduce the risk of lives lost to suicide. Prior to joining the OSPF, Tony served as the Director of Programs and Services for the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, where he managed Recovery-Oriented Systems of Care, the Statewide Advocacy Network and the Committee to Address Suicide for the organization. He has also served as the Director of State and Local Affairs for Smart Approaches to Marijuana and as legislative director for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Toledo.
Learning Lab: There is Help and There is Hope
Board MemberState of Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors
Amanda E. Crates of Findlay, Ohio is a Funeral Director/Embalmer member of the Board appointed by Governor Mike DeWine. Ms. Crates holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Urbana University and an MBA from University of Findlay. She currently manages Colden-Crates Funeral Home in Findlay and is a managing member of Schindewolf-Stout-Crates Funeral Home in Kenton.
She has served on the Ohio Funeral Directors Association Board of Directors as an At-Large Director, has been a member of multiple committees and is a Past President of District #7.
She received the Three Arches Leadership Award and is involved in Rotary Club and Soroptimist Club. Ms. Crates is also a Certified Personal Trainer and co-owner of Baylifft Gym & Box.
Learning Lab: Fostering a Successful Apprentice/Master Relationship
Chief Executive OfficerThe Foresight Companies
Chris Cruger is seen as an innovator and thought leader in the funeral and cemetery industry. His great success is based on his exceptional ability to provide comprehensive solutions to intricate business challenges that leaders in our industry are face with. Chris continues to successfully improve Foresight’s operational and transactional services. Since joining Foresight, he has demonstrated his passion and ability to help our clients and implemented some key initiatives to further expand the company.
As one of the foremost authorities in the cemetery and funeral service industry, Chris has knowledge to provide efficient solutions to business of all sizes in our profession. His passion and desire for the development of the funeral and cemetery profession come through in everything that he does.
Learning Lab: The Future is NOW for Funeral Service
Director of Preneed Trust Operations Ohio Funeral Directors Association
Laura Dempsey has worked for the Ohio Funeral Directors Association (OFDA) since 2014 and is currently the Director of Preneed Trust Operations. She oversees the daily Trust operations, assists with Master Trust oversight, creates marketing materials, maintains website content and is the editor of the weekly eNewsletter, the Digital Director. Laura is the past chair of the Trinity Lutheran School, school board, a volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Ohio Chapter and has previously volunteered for the annual American Lung Association Fight For Air Climb in Columbus, OH. She earned her B.S. at The Ohio State University in 2004; she currently resides in Marysville, OH with her husband, Tommie, and two children, Jackson and Addition.
Learning Lab: Your Most Common Master Trust Questions, Answered!
Author, Speaker, Podcast Host
Sherrie Dunlevy is a former radio talk host and TV news anchor. She is also a bereaved mom and daughter. She is the author of the #1 bestselling book “how Can I Help?” and offers talks, workshops and retreats on grief recovery and rebuilding and redesigning your life after loss. She is the former host of the Grief Anonymous podcast and the Founder of the Graduating Grief Academy and online support community and host of the Graduating Grief podcase, all designed to help move grieving people from living in pain to living with JOY.
Coleen Ellis, CT, CPLP
Pet Loss Pioneer Pet Loss & Grief Companioning Certified Author, International Speaker, Consultant, Blogger
A chance encounter with a pet parent facing the death of her pet was a defining moment for Coleen in 1998. It was the beginning of her vision of how to best meet the needs of pet parents in their desire to mourn, memorialize and pay tribute to their beloved pets when they die. In 2003, the experience of the death of her dog, Mico, guided her in starting the nation’s first stand-alone pet’s-only funeral home, Pet Angel Memorial Center. Soon, publications such as Kates-Boylston’s Pet Loss Insider deemed her the “most well-known pet funeral director” and a true “pet loss pioneer.”
In 2009, Coleen founded Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, to guide people who wish to provide meaningful pet death care services in their communities, as well to be an educational resource in the pet grief discipline. In 2009, she received the first Death and Grief Studies Certification specializing in Pet Loss Companioning by Dr. Alan Wolfelt as well as releasing her first book, Pet Parents: A Journey Through Unconditional Love and Grief. Her second book co-authored with colleague Dr. Mary Gardner, Forever Friend, released in 2022. She is Certified in Thanatology and is a Certified Pet Loss Professional.
By 2014, Coleen was ready to take her vision to a new level. She was a co-founder of The Pet Loss Center and assisted the company in opening pet loss operations across the United States, with this operation being acquired by a national acquisition company in 2020.
Learning Lab: The Unconditional Love & Stories of a Pet Loss Business
Donald B. Ferfolia, Jr., J.D., CFSP
Licensed Funeral Director Vice President Ferfolia Funeral Home
Don is a fourth-generation funeral director involved with his family’s funeral firm in the Southeast Cleveland area. In addition to being a funeral director he is an attorney who is a principal with the law firm of Donald B. Ferfolia, Jr., LTD, located in Brecksville, Ohio. The combination of law, funeral service, and family business experiences have provided Don with a unique skill set that enables him to assist clients in solving many different types of problems. He enjoys helping firms deal with the daily challenges of running a closely held business including regulatory compliance, proactively managing accounts receivable issues and succession planning.
Learning Lab: The VA Triangle
Gary M. Freytag, CCFE
President The International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association (ICCFA)
Gary M. Freytag was elected president of the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) during the 2021 ICCFA Virtual Convention & Exposition, May 17–21, 2021.
Mr. Freytag also serves as president and CEO of Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dartmouth and an MBA from the Harvard School of Business. Previously in his career, Freytag was the president of Information Alternatives, a Cincinnati based technology consulting company. Prior to that, he served as treasurer of Eagle-Picher, a public diversified manufacturing company. His other business experience includes manufacturing, management consulting and venture capital.
Since joining the deathcare profession and the ICCFA, Freytag has become a Certified Cemetery and Funeral Executive (CCFE) and has been very active in the association. He has spoken at a variety of industry events including the ICCFA Fall Management Conference, Wide World of Sales, ICCFA Annual Convention, and the OACFP. He has served as an ICCFA board member, on the strategic planning committee, the finance committee, as treasurer and as president-elect. He is the dean of the College of Leadership, Administration and Management at ICCFA University. Freytag is also an active member of Cemetery Council, Death Care Management Council and the Historic Cemetery Alliance.
Regional Sales VPFuneral Directors Life
Kevin has been in the Funeral and Cemetery industry for the past 25 years. He has consulted with funeral homes and cemeteries From Washington D.C. to San Francisco. In June of 2007 he joined Funeral Director’s Life Insurance Company as a Director with responsibilities in Ohio, Kentucky and a variety of development projects, and in 2010 became a Regional Vice President for the eastern U.S. He is actively involved in the International Cemetery and Funeral Association as a member of the Education Foundation Board and Chairman of the Membership Committee. He has also been a speaker at state and national conventions.
Preconvention Seminar: Ethics in Today’s Business and Meeting the Insurance Needs of the Senior Market
PartnerThe Foresight Companies
Doug Gober began his funeral service career forty-one years ago as a sales representative in the casket industry. He has earned numerous national awards from various organizations within the deathcare industry. Doug also served as a consultant on various marketing and merchandising projects conducted on an international scale. In 2018, Doug partnered with The Foresight Companies in his quest to provide funeral and cemetery owners successful business solutions. Foresight enables Doug to expand his service offerings to include Accounting, Business Valuations, Human Resource Services, Strategic Performance Analysis, as well as Financing.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Doug graduated from the University of Alabama in 1977, where he earned a Business Degree in Accounting. Subsequently, he become a Certified Public Accountant specializing in industrial audits and corporate taxes.
Learning Lab: The Future is NOW for Funeral Service
Executive DirectorState of Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors
Cheryl Grossman has been the Executive Director of the Embalmers and Funeral Directors Board of Ohio for the past two years. Her past experience includes serving in the Ohio House of Representatives for 8 years, concluding as the Majority Whip. She has served on numerous boards in the past.
Learning Lab: Fostering a Successful Apprentice/Master Relationship
General Manager - Funeral Home ChannelLegacy.com
John Heald is a 4th generation funeral director and former owner. He was one of the founders of Tributes.com, which was acquired by Legacy.com in 2015. He is a frequent speaker, both online and in-person, in the funeral profession. He also serves on the Board of the Funeral Service Foundation.
Learning Lab: The Obituary – Your Greatest Marketing Asset
Thomas B. Holland II, PhD, CPC
Vice President National AccountsAtlantic Coast Life
Tom Holland has been helping counselors for over 20 years in the insurance and Preneed Industry. He has held positions as Agent, Account Executive, Sales Manager, Regional Training Director, Regional Sales Director, Director of Conservation and Training Director-Field Development, Director Development and National Accounts, Vice President Sales/Marketing and currently Vice President National Accounts.
Tom has his CPC (Certified Pre-Planning Consultant) designation through the National Foundation Funeral Service and National Funeral Directors Association and is a member of the NFDA development board. He has held Life and Health Insurance License in the following states: Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois. His teaching experience includes a Life Underwriters Training Course Moderator. Tom has been approved as an instructor for numerous continuing education classes in many states and all Canadian Provinces. He holds his DTM designation through Toastmasters International, his Certificate in Management through the American Management Association. He has taught and instructed classes in insurance sales, management development, pre-license certification, ethics and marketing and sales development. Tom holds a master’s and PhD degrees in marketing.
Tom spent five years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation before moving into the insurance business.
Preconvention Seminar: Insurance Industry/Preneed/Final Expense
David Ingram, Esq.
The Ingram Firm OFDA General Counsel
David is a Columbus-based attorney practicing in a range of areas such as emerging businesses and non-profit and tax-exempt organizations. He draws on his experience as the previous executive director for the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors to serve OFDA and its membership. He enjoys the opportunity to assist funeral service entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses in navigating compliance, licensing, risk, and the unique challenges that they face each day.
Learning Lab: Whose Right Is It Anyway?
Content ManagerParting Stone
Alexandra is the Content Manager at Parting Stone where she creates forward-thinking content and performs in-depth research for the deathcare profession. Alexandra is passionately death curious and co-hosts the Deathcare Decoded podcast. She holds an MFA, is a former adjunct professor of Austin Peay State University, Belmont University and Tennessee State University, and currently lives in Santa Fe, NM. She has presented lectures and research at the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association Conference and for Selected Independent.
Poul Lemasters, Esq.
Lemasters Consulting ICCFA General Counsel
Poul’s professional career covers both funeral service and law. Poul has worked in the funeral profession for over 30 years and holds a funeral director’s license and embalmer’s license in several states. Poul is also a practicing attorney - always practicing - and admitted to practice law in several states. His work focuses in deathcare advising on various funeral home, cemetery, and crematory issues across the country, including serving as General Counsel for several associations including the ICCFA.
The focus of Lemasters has always been CYA - you knew that right? Basically, proactive prevention - helping you stay ahead of issues; and also reactive counseling - helping you when crisis and problems strike. CYA is so much a part of his life that he wrote a book about it! And, in Poul’s free time you can find him making cocktails, hopefully sitting on a beach with an umbrella drink in his hand, contemplating life (it’s not all about death you know.)
Keynote Presentation: "Cover Your Ass" Yes - He just Said That
Grief Specialist Director of Community Engagement Funeral Service Foundation
Kelly Manion has spent 20 years immersed in mission-driven work. She has served organizations in the arts and higher education communities, and for the last eight years has served the funeral service profession through her roles as the Director of Communication, and most recently, as the Director of Community Engagement for the Funeral Service Foundation. In her work, Kelly carries out the Foundation’s mission of investing in people and programs to strengthen funeral service and lift grieving communities by promoting the value of funerals and memorialization to organizations across the end-of-life continuum, and helping funeral professionals build meaningful relationships within their communities. Kelly was instrumental in creating resources and initiatives that help funeral directors support their communities and staff, including Youth & Funerals, Grieving Alone & Together, Caring for Families & Caring for Yourself, and Journey to Serve. She also helps oversee the Foundation’s scholarship program, which offers support to more than 500 funeral service professionals and students of funeral service each year.
Licensed Funeral Director Attorney at Law Program Director, Worsham College of Mortuary Science
Leili McMurrough is a licensed funeral director and embalmer and a licensed attorney. Leili received her B.A. from Lehigh University, her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law, and her Associate degree from Simmons Institute of Funeral Service. Leili is the Program Director at Worsham College and works at McMurrough Funeral Chapel in Libertyville, Illinois. She is also the Chair of the American Board of Funeral Service Education Committee on Accreditation.
Learning Lab: The Young and the Restless
Christine Pepper, CAE
Chief Executive Officer National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA)
Christine currently serves as the Executive Director of the National Funeral Directors Association. She is responsible for all facets of the Association’s operations and works with the President to set agendas for meetings, priorities for recommendations, and ensures compliance with Board decisions.
Adam Sanden, CPA, MBA
PresidentBrunner Funeral Home, Inc.
Adam J. Sanden is President of Brunner Sanden Deitrick Funeral Home & Cremation Center and has worked in the family business since 2007. He is responsible for Controllership duties, Treasury duties, Economic Strategy and Forecasting of the business, and manages HR responsibilities for his staff of 18 employees.
Prior to joining the family business, Sanden spent 3 years in private and public accounting, most recently as an Assurance Associate at Grant Thornton, LLP in downtown Cleveland.
Adam grew up in Mentor, Ohio where he attended Lake Catholic High School. Sanden earned his BSBA in Accountancy and MBA from John Carroll University. He also attended Lakeland Community College.
Adam is actively involved in community events, and previously sat on the boards of Painesville Rotary, Lake Health, the Citizens Financial Advisory Committee for the Mentor Public Schools, Leadership Lake County and The Mentor Area Chamber of Commerce. Currently, he is the Treasurer of Citizens for Lake Metroparks. He was profiled as “One2Watch” by Inside Business Magazine for his work in the community, and received a "Top 4 Under 40" award from the Lake County Chambers of Commerce.
Recently, Adam has gained national attention by speaking to state Funeral Associations about best practices in the funeral industry. He has presented to associations from Florida, Illinois, and Idaho (just to name a few) where he shared his knowledge and expertise about the "business" side of the funeral industry.
Learning Lab: It's not "just a cremation!"
UBS Financial The 770 Group
Scott started his career in the financial services industry in 2006 with Smith Barney and joined The 770 Group in 2008. He graduated with honors from the Terry College of Business School at the University of Georgia in 2003 and holds the Chartered Sustainable and Responsible Investment Counselor (CSRIC) designation. Scott focuses on providing investment advice to high-net-worth families and individuals. He and his wife, Sabrina, have two children, Perri and Jack, and live in the Virginia-Highlands neighborhood of Atlanta. He is a supporter of the Atlanta United Soccer team and spends as much time as possible outdoors playing golf, tennis, and soccer.
Learning Lab: Your Most Common Master Trust Questions, Answered!
Owner & President of Homeward Bound Shipping, Inc.Founder, Professional Embalmers Institute (PEI)
The opportunity to impact the lives of others can present itself in many ways. But for Matt Smith, he answers that calling every day in his life’s work. In death, he restores beauty and creates a greater family experience by making the loved one Perfectly Presentable.
If there ever were a trailblazer in a profession, it is Matt Smith. In the past 25 years, Matt has become an international educator in embalming and professional instruction.
“Matt MAKES the impossible POSSIBLE and the overwhelmingly challenging EASIER.” ~S. Hill
Matt is well-known for his innovative solutions for difficult case restoration and feature setting. The one to transform bodies and mindset in the most difficult cases.
Severe edema, auto accident trauma, Jaundice, gun-shot trauma, decomposition case, severe tissue gas cases, severe emaciation, burn victim, creating the smile…and others.
Developing and teaching his rarified technical procedures and artistic enhancements with his extensive experience, Matt inspires his community of colleagues. He has designed well-documented visuals and instructional courses to transform the profession. Matt is an inspirational, encouraging, and compelling coach but most importantly, he is driven to make an impact on others.
Preconvention Seminar: Embalming 101 - Advanced Technician
President/CEO Administrative Systems, Inc.
Paul vonSchoeler is the President/CEO Administrative Systems, Inc. ASI has over 30 years of experience providing record keeping services to preneed master trusts. Presently, ASI provides record keeping services to the Ohio Funeral Directors Association Master Trust, the West Virginia Funeral Directors Association Master Trust, the Alabama Funeral Directors Master Trust, the Mississippi Funeral Directors Master Trust, the Tennessee Funeral Directors Association, the Independent Funeral Directors of Florida Master Trust and a preneed master trust sponsored by TD Bank in Massachusetts.
Learning Lab: Your Most Common Master Trust Questions, Answered!
Member Resources Director International Order of the Golden Rule (OGR) Founder, Laugh Academy
Nancy Weil serves as Member Resources Director for the International Order of the Golden Rule and is the founder of The Laugh Academy. For over a decade her monthly column, Random Musings, has been featured in Funeral Home and Cemetery News. She has certifications as a Grief Management Specialist, Grief Services Provider, Funeral Celebrant and Laughter Leader. Nancy is known for her energetic, entertaining and content-rich programs.
Learning Lab: Community Outreach: How to Get Free, Positive Publicity
Mortuary Student Forum: All Stressed Out and Ready to Blow
Nicole Wiedeman, CSE
Funeral Celebrant, First Call FacilitatorDead Ringers
Nicole has served the Death Care Profession for 32 years. Her first 25 years were with Forethought/Global Atlantic.
The past 6 years she has served as key analyst and trainer for Dead Ringers. She is on a mission to save us from ourselves in our phone interactions. She is a student of stellar customer service. Nicole conducts etiquette and sales training to hundreds of Death Care Professionals every year. She is an expert in SWOT analysis, business strategy, and communication techniques.
She is a familiar face at Death Care industry events whether visiting with friends and colleagues or a featured speaker and serves on the Board of The Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.
Nicole has a designation of CSE - Certified Supplier Executive with ICCFA. She is a Certified Funeral Celebrant. She also has the designation of Certified Tour Ambassador.
Justin P. Zabor, CFSP
Funeral Director and Professional SpeakerThe Zabor Funeral Home, Inc.Justin Zabor Enterprises, LLC
Justin P. Zabor, CFSP is “The Director of Death who speaks the Language of Life” for you and your business. He is a third-generation funeral director and professional speaker who works with associations, organizations and corporations to help them create customer experiences To Die For!
Justin has been granted the designation of Certified Funeral Service Professional (CFSP) by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. There are over 35,000 funeral directors in the U.S. alone and only 4% of the entire profession have achieved this distinct honor.
He is the President of Justin Zabor Enterprises LLC, a professional speaking firm based in Cleveland, OH. He has been speaking professionally in the funeral industry for over 15 years. Justin was elected the second-youngest President ever of The Ohio Chapter of the National Speakers Association.