2018 AFCCA Annual Conference Recap

Another annual conference has come and gone, and now is the time to reflect on the event.

The “FOCUS” this year was self-care in order to more effectively serve the families that come to us in their time of need. Everyone in this industry, from grounds crew to funeral directors to the office staff to suppliers has an important role when assisting with the funeral plans of a family’s loved one. We all have felt stress, emotion, and exhaustion. It is important to make sure you are taking care of your needs so you have the strength to take care of others.

The event started off with the opening ceremonies that was arranged by Roger and Mitzi Ellis with Bugles Across America. and featured the presentation of colors by Davis Monthan Air Force Base Honor Guard and accompanied by Roger on his bugle. Please keep them in mind for your veteran families, they provide live buglers at no cost for any veteran funeral.

We honored our friends, family and colleagues lost this past year.

Angelique Simpson, Matthews International, spoke to us on “Put YOUR Mask on First Before Assisting Others” and challenged us all to do something nice for ourselves for 21 days straight. Have you started your 21-day challenge yet?

Chuck Bowman, NFDA President Elect, also spoke on his experiences in the Funeral Profession and the toll he knows it can take on our minds, bodies and emotional being. He also brought up the NFDA Work/Life Resource program and encouraged everyone to utilize this great program.

Keeping ourselves safe in the Prep room is an important topic always, and Rory McKeown, Dodge, gave us plenty of tips to consider and enforce from beginning to end while embalming.

Monica Torres, NXT Generation Mortuary Support Services, introduced her “Family Assisted Dress Experience” program that is geared towards helping families to fill the void and disconnect between the time of death and cremation or burial.

As we said before, every member of our Cemetery/Funeral Home team plays a key role in serving families and Gino Merendino, Merendino Cemetery Care, spoke on keeping them engaged from his experience.

Finally, Michael Soper and Philip Smith joined us from Legacy Funeral Group to speak on their experience with the Las Vegas Massacre that affected us all in October of last year. It brought up the question of “Are we prepped in Disaster Readiness?”

Thank you to all our speakers who took time to join us and share their knowledge with our group.

This year we also introduced the “Passport to Prizes” in the Supplier Expo Hall! Those who traveled the room to get their passports stamped won faaaabbuuuulllllloooouuusss prizes!

Focus on Relaxing – won by Alexandra Cole, recent Mortuary Program Graduate
  • $250 Gift Card to Red Door Spas
  • Under the desk Foot Massager
Focus on Travel – won by April Cornejo, Midwestern University
  • $250 Gift Car to Southwest Airlines
  • Samsonite carry-on suitcase
Focus on Your Health – won by Tony Asta, Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home
  • Ninja Kitchen Blender System
  • $250 gift card to Sprouts


As we do every year, we kicked off our annual conference with golf! It was hot morning, but we were surrounded by beautiful views and good friends. Thank you to PBF Mfg Co for sponsoring the golf breakfast, golf lunch and prizes.

Thank you hole sponsors: Batesville, Camino del Sol Funeral Home, Dodge, The Davis Whitehall Co, Eagle’s Wings Air, Great Western Insurance Company, Handley Precast Systems, Heritage Funeral Homes, Messenger Stationary.


Tuesday evening started off with the Presidential Welcome Reception in Past-President Hillary Adair’s Suite. This was a fun time mingling with friends and colleagues and enjoying a beverage before heading over to the AFCCA Foundation for Children Fundraiser.  Thank you to the generous sponsors of the reception: Hank & Hillary Adair (Adair Avalon Chapel), Ian Lamont (Lamont Mortuary of Globe), Liz Zeig (PBF Mfg), Steve Palmer (Westcott Funeral Home), and Greg Coury (Mountain View Funeral Home).

The AFCCA Foundation for Children Tailgating Fundraiser was such a fun time with some fierce competition with the Beer Pong and Cornhole Tournament. We all loved seeing Dave Petermeier with Coldspring dead serious about winning bingo, backwards cap and all.

Congratulations to Corn Hole Champion: Matt Asta

Congratulations to Beer Pong Winner: Stephanie Addison

And all of our Bingo Winners!
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A special thanks to our event sponsors!

Cocktails sponsored by Matthews Aurora Funeral and Cemetery Products

Appetizers sponsored by Mickelson & Ray
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Auction items sponsored by:
• Scentsy Basket by Surprise Funeral Care
• Handmade Necklace by Alicia Short
• Tequila Hat by Handley Precast Systems
• Tequila Boot by Handley Precast Systems
• Bottles of Wine by Bill and Jenny Aaron
• $200 VIsa Gift Card by Matt Lane with GWIC
• Apple Home Pod by Hillary Adair
• Navigator Drone by Karen Ritz with Camino del Sol
• Casket Purse by Ann-Marie Harris with Mickelson & Ray
• Deerhammer Single Batch Double Barrell Whiskey – Terry School with The Davis Whitehall Co
• Galaxy Tablet by Stephanie McNaughton with Matthews Aurora
• BBQ Summer Basket by Rory McKeown with Dodge
• Tailgating Fun Basket by Janet Warren with J. Warren Funeral Services
• Oculus Rift VR Headset by Greg Coury with Mountain View Funeral Home
• Sonos One with Alexa by Tom Gazda with Arizona Audio Visual
• Coach Purse with Wallet and Business Card holder by Liz Zeig with PBF Mfg


To end the  week of learning, we held a celebration of those who go above and beyond in the Funeral Industry in Arizona. Each year members have the opportunity to nominate themselves or others they feel go above and beyond the call of duty in the Funeral Profession. Congratulations to our Of the Year Winners!

Funeral Home of the Year: Superstition Funeral & Cremation Center – Apache Junction

Cemetery of the Year: J. Warren Mountain View Cemetery – Casa Grande

Funeral Director of the Year:
Shane Mullin – Mountain View Funeral Home – Mesa

Associate of the Year: Vanessa Linares – Adair Avalon Chapel – Tucson

Supplier(s) of the Year :
Terry School – The Davis Whitehall Co
Michael Kane – Messenger Stationary
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Chuck Bowman installed the new 2018-2019 AFCCA Board of Directors.

President: Amie Gazda
Vice President: Ethan Bueler
Secretary: Dave Walker
Treasurer: Steve Palmer

Funeral Council
Paul Neville
Hillary Adair

Cemetery Council
Renee Corbelli
Greg Coury
Daniel Salter

Crematory Council
Russell Persinger
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Thank you to our sponsors:

Photography and Cocktail Reception sponsored by Matthews Aurora Funeral Products Cemetery Products

Banquet Dinner Wine Sponsored by Dignity Memorial

Banquet Centerpieces sponsored (and hand made) by Adair Avalon Chapel

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