Make Every Connection Matter: Thursday Schedule


8:00 AM

Opening Ceremonies

Honoring Fallen Heroes – Join us as we pay tribute to the Yarnell 19 as well as our own fallen heroes of the industry.

8:45 AM


State Board Updates

Rudy Thomas, Executive Director to the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers

Speaker Bio: Rudy Thomas was appointed as Executive Director of the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers in 1999.  Previously Mr. Thomas served in the military, and the Detroit Police Department and eventually became the Assistant Chief of Police.  After retirement he relocated to Arizona only to leave retirement to become the Executive Director of the State Board.

9:00 AM

MWN PICMarketing Cremation for Profitability

Michael W. Nicodemus, NFDA, Vice President of Cremation Services

Topic Description: Most cremation families know one thing…..they want cremation. Other than that, they are not aware of the options they have or the services the funeral homes provide. Listen to Mike Nicodemus explain some successful ways in raising the bar when it comes to handling cremation families. From motivating your employees to explaining funeral directors misconceptions on cremation, this session is jammed packed with everything you and your employees need to know on how to maintain success and increase market share as cremation rates continue to rise each year.

Speaker Bio: Mike Nicodemus currently serves as Vice President of Cremation Services for the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) and is the former Vice President of cremation operations at Hollomon-Brown Funeral Homes in the Tidewater, VA area with a 60% cremation rate consisting of eight funeral homes. Mike is President of Nicodemus & Associates Consulting Services. He is a Past President of the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) and served as Chairman of their Crematory Operations Certificate Program (COCP) for eight years. He currently conducts the NFDA Certified Crematory Operators (CCO) program. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science where he is an alumnus. He is licensed to practice in three states which includes Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Mike is a highly sought after speaker on the National and State levels and has been retained in numerous lawsuits as an expert witness in various cremation cases for funeral homes and crematories. He is the author of the Cremation Operations Manual published by Kates-Boylston and has been featured or quoted in numerous articles including, USA Today, Time, Newsweek, ABC News, BBC News, and the New York Times.

11:00 AM

Linda_DarbyTen Things You Are Afraid to Tell Families (But They Need to Hear)

Linda Darby, CEO of Trigard

Speaker Bio: Linda Darby has been in the memorialization industry since graduating from Illinois State University in 1984. Along with her sister and brother, Linda is co-owner of her family’s business, including Trigard burial vaults, Trigard Memorials, seven funeral homes and a memorial park.

Linda has served on various associations, including the Board of the Illinois Cemetery Association with its involvement in Legislation and Public Relations and the Board of the Arizona Funeral Directors Association. Linda also sat on the Illinois State’s Comptroller’s Cemetery Advisory Board for two years, co-chaired the Women in Funeral Service Scholarship program for the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA), and served on the board of the National Concrete Burial Vault Association. Linda is the current President of the Funeral and Memorialization Information Council (FAMIC) and is a trustee for the Funeral Service Foundation.

Linda is an experienced speaker, presenting at national conventions, state shows and smaller area funeral homes. She also speaks regularly to mortuary science schools across the country.

12:00 PM

RobertBates“Have the Talk of a Lifetime” Presentation

Robert “Robby” Bates, President, NFDA

Topic Description: Have the Talk of a Lifetime encourages your families to have conversations about life and what matters most. Learn about how to encourage and create meaningful memorialization with your families during this presentation.

Speaker Bio: Robert “Robby” L. Bates, CFSP, owner of Bates Family Funeral Home in De Kalb, Texas, is the 2013-14 president of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). Robby is the owner of Bates Family Funeral Home in De Kalb, Texas.

2:00 PM

melinda-ellsworthWhole Body Donation – An Educational Overview

Melinda Ellsworth, MA, Director of Donor Services, ScienceCare

Topic Description: You, your funeral directors and your consumers may have many questions about body donation.  This presentation is intended as a general overview.

Speaker Bio: As the Science Care Director of Donor Services, Melinda Ellsworth is responsible to direct the education and awareness efforts in the community as well as the operational excellence of the donor processes. As such, she leads the marketing and grass roots community awareness and education efforts. The Community Relations staff are the experts in the community on the whole body donation process and they educate about the benefits of body donation to both families and medical research and science. As well, Ms. Ellsworth guides a team of trained professionals to coordinate whole body donation with ease and compassion for the family. This team is responsible for organizing each of the carefully orchestrated processes of acceptance, transportation, death certificate filing and the return of cremated remains back to the family.

Ms. Ellsworth’s work in service organization management and supply chain analysis over the past 15 years has centered around developing cultures of service excellence, lean service-based operations, process and supply chain optimization, resource efficiencies, change management and global team building and execution. Educated at Wichita State University and the University of Phoenix with black belt training in Lean Six Sigma for transactional operations, her professional experience includes several years in high tech industries with large global companies in the semiconductor manufacturing and telecom sectors, as well as non-transplant tissue banking.

3:15 PM

Chris_farmerThird-Party Crematories and Liability: How to Protect Yourself Through Preparation and Due Diligence

Christopher Farmer, General Counsel, CANA

Topic Description: With the rise in cremation rates, not all facilities are able to handle the demand. Quite often funeral homes look to third-party crematories to help provide cremation services or handle excess work. Whether you are using third-party crematories or whether you are a crematory providing services to another provider, it is important for you to protect yourselves from potential catastrophic liability from cremation lawsuits.

Speaker Bio: Mr. Farmer is General Counsel to, and on the Board of Directors for, the Cremation Association of North America. He provides legal counsel to CANA, its board and its membership. Mr. Farmer is also of Counsel to Sheehy, Ware & Pappas, P.C., in Houston, Texas, and is a founding member of the firm’s Funeral and Cemetery practice group, representing one of the most experienced and respected collection of attorneys practicing Death Care Law in Texas and beyond. Mr. Farmer has represented hundreds of small and large funeral home, cemetery and cremation clients throughout North America in matters involving regulatory and licensure compliance, professional negligence, employment, and business torts from the initial claim through litigation and appeals. Mr. Farmer is also a member of the firm’s labor and employment, commercial litigation, and general litigation sections and has extensive experience handling all kinds of legal matters for a variety of commercial clients.

4:00 PM

Legislative Updates

John K. Mangum, Law Offices of John K. Mangum, AFCCA Lobbyist

Speaker Bio: John is known to those in the governmental arena as one of the most effective government relations representatives in Arizona. His expertise and knowledge of Arizona politics and keen strategic sense is respected by policy makers and government relations practitioners alike. He effectively works on both sides of the aisle for his clients and he is known for his ability to simplify and explain complex issues to policy makers and Legislators. He is considered one of the leading legislative and government relations lawyers in the State of Arizona.

John received his law degree from the University of Arizona and was admitted to the Arizona and Federal Bars after graduation from Law School. He has practiced law in Arizona for over thirty years, specializing in the areas of government relations, administrative, corporate and trade association law. In addition, he served as House Majority Attorney and as Legal Counsel to three successive Speakers of the Arizona House of Representatives, from 1974 to 1985.

4:15 PM

AFCCA Business Meeting and Elections

A presentation of financials and elections of new board members and officers.