As a young man growing up between the small communities of Tecumseh and Clinton, Herb Ayres was willing to try almost anything. At Clinton High School, Herb lettered in golf, basketball, and football. He was also the editor of the school newspaper, president of the student council, and a member of the symphonic and jazz bands. Although he was active in all these things, it was golf that became Herb's real passion. He was intrigued by the game, which taught him great mental discipline. Plus, the sport allowed him to spend time with his father, who had already turned 40 when Herb was born.
After graduating high school in 1970, Herb accepted a scholarship to study aeronautical engineering. Meanwhile, he began working part-time in a funeral home owned by a friend of the family. Herb liked the job; so much so, in fact, that he soon decided it was the field he wanted to pursue. He graduated from Western Michigan University in 1974 and Wayne State University in 1976. By 1977, Herb had secured a position as a funeral director with the firm belonging to Bob Gren. Bob admitted to Herb that he was looking for someone to take over for him, and Herb turned out to be the perfect successor. Bob integrated Herb into the business, serving as his most valued mentor. True to his word, Bob sold the business to Herb as his health began to decline in the following years. Bob eventually passed away, but Herb would always remember his generosity and guidance.
Herb's approach when meeting with grieving families has been largely shaped by Bob Gren, though Herb's own encounters with death have influenced him as well. By the time he turned 45, Herb had lost many close relatives. This included his wife Pam, who had worked closely with her husband and had been instrumental in making the Portage chapel of Rupert, Durham, Marshall & Gren a reality. As difficult as these losses were, they allowed Herb to better help people who were going through similar circumstances. He developed a personal mission when working with families, which was simply to engage them as friends.
The addition of Life Story Network® to RDMG has helped Herb accomplish his mission. "Life Story Network® has given me the tools," he says, "to allow families to reach into their hearts and say and do things previously unsaid and undone - saying goodbye without regrets." With LSN, Herb is able to provide service that not only meets, but exceeds every family's expectations.
Jim has loved music since the moment he could hear it. By the third grade, he was taking piano lessons from his dad, and by the fourth grade, he had started playing the cello. The cello remained his passion through junior high and high school. One summer, he was part of the All-State program at Interlochen National Music Camp. Jim also liked to sing, and sang in the South Haven High School Choir and the State Honors Choir. In college, Jim continued to indulge his musical ability, playing in the Western Michigan University Orchestra and singing in the University Grand Chorus.
To earn money during college, Jim worked summers at the South Haven Hospital. It was here that he met a local funeral director who offered him a job at the funeral home. Almost immediately, Jim loved it. He soon graduated from WMU and enrolled at the Indiana College of Mortuary Science. After obtaining his degree, Jim served his country at the U.S. Army Mortuary at Than Son Nut Airbase, Saigon, South Vietnam.
After Vietnam Jim returned to the funeral home in South Haven for a couple years during which time he met the love of his life, the former Jane Arkins. Jim and Jane were married in South Haven and were blessed with the birth of their first son, Ryan, while they lived at the funeral home. A few months later Jim took a job with the Batesville Casket Company where he spent the next 26 years. Jim and Jane lived in Kalamazoo during this time which is where their second son, Patrick, was born. In 2001 Jim was involved in a special project-the Funeral of the Future-for Batesville. This work brought Jim closer to families again and to the important feelings they have when a loved one dies.
With this in mind Jim decided to become part of a new company called Life Story Network® and also to be a funeral director at Rupert, Durham, Marshall & Gren Funeral Home. This allowed Jim to pursue his new-found passion: changing the focus of funeral service from the death that occurred to the life that was lived. At a Life Story Funeral Home the focus is on the family, the memories of their loved one, and keeping those memories alive; Life Story Network is the company that will make all of that happen for Life Story Funeral Homes® across the country.
Life Story Network® is leading a transformation in the funeral service profession: "The Life Story process is a funeral business innovation that changes the way people remember the ones they love. Life Story Network® is not about burial, cremation, caskets, or urns. It's about the human heart." Jim is excited about the work he does because it allows him to help people in a way funeral service was never able to do before.
Jim & Jane still visit their native town of South Haven, especially during the summer months. For relaxation Jim and Jane like to walk the trails in Parkview Hills where they live, and spend time with their sons and their granddaughter, Shae. Jim continues to indulge his musical interests as well, singing in the choir at St. Augustine Cathedral and listening to classical music.
Christine discovered her fascination with the funeral profession at the age of 10. It was then that she attended the funeral of her four-year-old cousin, who she thought looked remarkably more peaceful lying in the casket than she had in life. This contradiction was intriguing to Christine and she promptly began asking all the questions she could. From this moment on, she knew what she wanted to do.
Though Christine became pregnant during her senior year at Hackett Catholic Central, the experience only encouraged her to pursue her career. She gave birth to her daughter, Kelly Renee, on September 25, 1991. With the support of her parents, Christine focused on her schoolwork and graduated in 1992.
Before and during her attendance at mortuary school, Christine took advantage of the opportunity to work for Betzler Funeral Home. Upon becoming a licensed funeral director, Christine began working for Scott Betzler, who owned a pet crematory named Precious Pets. Though she enjoyed this work, Christine wanted to be able to practice her trade in a conventional funeral home. Soon, the opportunity arose. Rupert, Durham, Marshall & Gren was looking for a part-time funeral director and Christine knew this would be a great place to work. Since 2001, Christine has gradually been taking on more responsibility with the firm, and in April 2004, she became a full-time funeral director.
Christine came to RDMG just as it began to employ the services of Life Story Network®. To her, Life Story Network® helps families realize the saying, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." She has witnessed overwhelmingly positive responses from families to Life Story Funerals® . Instead of feeling as if they are the target of a sale, families tell Christine that they feel like the funeral service centers entirely on them and the memories they want to share. "No one wants to come into our building," Christine says, "they do it because they have to, so I try to make the experience personal, comforting, and educational for them." She does this by allowing herself to be emotionally involved with a family, recognizing that by offering more compassion, she helps them to feel more comfortable with her and, in turn, the funeral process.
Making people comfortable is what Christine Broberg does best. In her personal life, she takes comfort in her family, with whom she spends most of her free time. Christine has been married to her husband Scott since 1995, and they share their home with their children, Kelly Renee & Allison Faye, two dogs, Daisy & Daphne, two kitties, Max & Macy and a slew of other animal friends.
Having been born into a family of funeral professionals, Jon Durham had never planned to be a funeral director himself. His father, Sheldon Durham, had been a licensed funeral director since 1955. The family lived above the Rupert-Durham funeral home in Vicksburg, where as a young man Jon would carry funeral flowers, set up chairs, and clean the chapel for forthcoming services.
By the time Jon graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1981, he knew he would continue with his education; the problem, however, was deciding on a course of study. Since he had been so close to the funeral profession as a child, Jon was anxious to explore another career. He decided to begin Pre-Med coursework at Kalamazoo College. With only a vague ambition in the medical field, Jon was heavily influenced to go in another direction following a significant death in his family.
When Jon's grandmother, Effie Rupert, passed away, the experience of her death gave Jon new insight into his father's responsibilities as a funeral director. For the first time, Jon became very emotionally invested in a funeral and could appreciate his father's critical role in making the event come together. This experience ended up putting Jon's life in a new direction. He transferred to the University of Minnesota in the spring of 1983, where he studied Mortuary Science. He graduated in 1985, returning to Vicksburg later the same year to begin working with his father.
As a funeral director, Jon has done his utmost to give every family the most fulfilling experience possible. His sincere and straight-forward manner has been able to put families at ease, allowing Jon to communicate with them effectively. Creating this intimate connection with families has given Jon the chance to better understand their emotional needs.
Today, Jon's work intently focuses on implementing what he has learned. In the past few years, Life Story Network® has become his new vehicle for bringing families a heightened level of service. He has passionately nurtured the company from its inception, and continues to guide it into the twenty-first century.
Building and maintaining Life Story Network® is a labor of love for Jon, who spends much of his free time researching and gathering information for the business. Luckily, surfing the Internet is another of his interests, as are waterskiing and walking. Jon is also active in the community, serving as a member of the Vicksburg Rotary Club and the Vicksburg Historic Village Committee, a trustee of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, and a volunteer at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
Family has always been a principal part of the McCowen household. For Steve, it all began in Jackson, MI where he was born and raised, along with his younger brother Jeff. Steve’s grandparents, who lived in Kalamazoo, were his strongest influences. He has many fond memories of spending time with them as a kid, especially at Milham Park with its sprawling trees and winding creek.
During high school Steve’s dad recommended him for a position at a funeral home—Steve says it was his dad’s way of getting him out of the house for the summer. It did exactly that—and more, as it turned out to be the very thing that set Steve on a path for the future. Steve liked working at the funeral home so much that he decided to pursue the profession as his career. So, upon graduating from Jackson’s Lumen Christi High School in 1990, he spent the next two years at Ferris State University, then transferred to Xavier University to attend the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.
Steve has been with the Life Story Funeral Homes in Vicksburg, Portage, and Plainwell since 2003. He and his family live in the Indian Lake area of Vicksburg. Steve has three children: Mackenzie, Joey, and Stephen. In 2012 Steve married a high school classmate, Missy, who also has three children: Roni, Makenzee, and Brody.
Besides his work at the funeral homes, Steve is active in the Vicksburg community. He is president of the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce, a trustee of the Vicksburg Community School Foundation, works with the Vicksburg Little League and Rocket Football program, and serves on the board of directors of Kairos Dwelling. Steve believes that giving back to your community is very important, and he leads by example.
Steve loves his job and his community, but, just as in childhood, the McCowen household revolves around family. Steve enjoys spending his free time with his wife and children because, he says, “They are the single most important part of my life.”
It is no secret that people need a friend and a professional to walk with them through the journey of loss. Besides knowing this first-hand from the death of his own father, Tim's background has led him to the point of being perfectly suited to be the loyal friend and true professional we all need when death occurs.
Tim grew up in Breckenridge--Michigan that is, NOT Colorado as Tim is quick to point out! But as a kid he liked snow skiing anyway, there just weren't many mountains in Mid Michigan! With six brothers and sisters there was bound to be fun no matter what. Growing up in a big family accounts partly, too, for Tim's easy going attitude and willingness to invest in people. He learned from his father that character counts, as does concern for the well-being of others. These things fit right in with Tim's quiet but deep faith.
In high school, Tim says, he honed his people-skills--meaning he preferred hanging out with friends and, of course girls, rather than studying. Didn't we all! From high school he went on to Spring Arbor University for four years and graduated with a Christian Ministry Degree. Tim served as a Youth Pastor in Ohio for five years and then as an Associate Pastor in Otsego, MI. Along the way he took every opportunity to broaden his life-experience by serving as a Camp Director, a firefighter and EMT, as well as an author and speaker.
So how did Tim become interested in funeral service? He had no connection to funeral service early in life, saying it was never even a blip on his radar screen. Until . . . he began doing funerals as a pastor, and became friends with a funeral director. Tim quickly discovered funeral service fit in well with his desire to serve people, especially at a time of great loss. So he went back to college, earned a degree in Mortuary Science, and now has his National Board Certificate from The Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards of the United States and his license to practice in Michigan from the State Board of Examiners in Mortuary Science. Tim's desire to serve people has taken him on a journey from vocational ministry to ministry as a funeral director.
Tim finds profound satisfaction working with families who need his services. By sharing his love, support, and guidance, people quickly find comfort and relief knowing that they are in good hands. They know, too, that the precious memories and stories of their love ones will be preserved, shared, and saved for future generations.
Tim and his wife, Tera, their daughter Madison, and son Gabriel, live in Otsego. Tim says Madie is driven and talented like her mother--but skis like her dad! Gabe, he says, likes to joke and make people laugh--like his dad. Thankfully, both children got their mothe'rs good looks. When he's not at the funeral home Tim likes to spend time golfing and skiing. And pushing his skill with Play Station 3; he's determined to beat his kids at a game, any game! This, of course, rarely happens.