ABOUT THE EPISODE: While women working in the funeral profession is nothing new, the incredible job done by many of them to serve families to the highest standards is something that cannot be overstated. The tasks performed, the detail with which they are done, and the empathetic care behind them have provided us all with examples of what we should strive for in our own work.
In episode 66, host, Gabe Schauf, sits down with Ellen Wynn McBrayer, licensed funeral director and embalmer and President and CFO of Jones-Wynn Funeral Homes and Crematory in Georgia, to learn more about her experiences in the funeral profession. The 2023 Inspiration Award Winner discusses the leadership and mentorship roles she has found herself in throughout her career and shares the importance and results of leading by example. You can learn more about the Inspiration Award HERE.
Special thanks to NGL for sponsoring the award:
ABOUT ELLEN: Ellen Wynn McBrayer is the President and CFO of Jones-Wynn Funeral Homes and Crematory, in Georgia. She is a 3rd Generation (Both Husband/Wife Team) funeral director and embalmer and is the is the first female in her family to become a licensed embalmer. In 2009, she was honored to be named one of Georgia's top "40 under 40" by Georgia Trend Magazine - an esteemed recognition of accomplished individuals in the state. She was chosen as one of the top 5 funeral directors in the country by the American Funeral Director magazine in 2021 and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) announced Ellen as the inaugural winner of the NFDA Inspiration Award in 2023. Ellen has been serving on various NFDA Committees since 2007 and currently serves on the NFDA’s Board of Directors.
In her own words: “Growing up in funeral service provided me with an invaluable foundation of knowledge and experience that I use to provide personal, caring, respectful service to families. When I was in college, my dad died suddenly of a massive heart attack. At that moment I knew my calling was back into funeral service. I learned, “A funeral isn’t just a day in a life, but a lifetime in a day,” because I felt it myself. My calling back into the family business was suddenly bigger than me. Continuing the family tradition and starting a family, we then faced another crossroads we didn’t expect. We discovered that our second son had little chance of surviving childbirth due to major complications, including heart and DiGeorge Syndrome birth defects. Our journey from a newborn on hospice to the miracle of his survival helped grow me as a person to better serve and care for families in funeral service. Funeral service isn’t what I do, it’s who I am.
I have a passion for funeral service, founded on generational principles, yet open-minded to growing and adapting for the future. The National Funeral Directors Association is a fundamental part of who I am as a professional. It is the anchor for funeral homes, allowing us to serve our communities to the best of our abilities with a common course and set of values. Serving families in need with empathy and compassion is a constant in our profession. Times and culture are changing and technology is advancing at a mind-bending pace. I believe it is imperative for the NFDA to take advantage of technology, especially when it comes to media for the benefit of those we serve. We should be the voice of our profession, not just to our colleagues, but to communities, government, and news media. We should demonstrate a willingness to adapt, include, and advance our profession as stewards of compassion and hope.
With a passion for what the NFDA stands for and compassion for all we serve, I know that my perseverance when faced with challenges and my leadership can be attributed to our profession. I’m experienced and comfortable representing our profession as a liaison with print and televised media, having been called on many times by local, state, and national organizations. I bring a history of diligence, experience, compassion, communication, organization, and leadership to my profession. My core values are to treat others as I would want to be treated, remain fair and respectful to others, work hard as leader and team member, and never stop learning. Others have remarked that I am forward-thinking and believe that a progressive attitude could help NFDA’s mission to remain a leader in our industry. Serving a suburb of Atlanta, we care for many different cultures and communities. I believe NFDA helps us do that, and in return, I use our daily experiences to benefit NFDA and its members. Funeral service is one of my top missions in life. I am loyal and committed to my life journey in this calling.”