History & Staff
We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession, dedicated to excellence in service, and have the highest integrity.
Graceland Cemetery & Graceland’s beautifully landscaped grounds have their origins in 1919. The cemetery was set up when a group of Decatur and Niantic men acquired 54 acres of land on the northwest edge of Decatur for the purpose of establishing a modern perpetual care fund cemetery.
Development work started by clearing the land of old buildings and fences, building roads, and adding a new fence around the tract. New drives were laid out and extensive landscaping undertaken. The landscape policy called for extensive use of evergreens. This helps keep the grounds attractive in summer and green in winter. During winter, when everything is covered with snow, it is a sight that could best be described as fairyland-like.
Over the years, we have added features to our facility that further enhances the picture-perfect beauty of Graceland.
Garden of Memories
In 1946, the Veteran’s Section was created. Known as the “Garden of Memories”, it is a fitting tribute to those who have served our country in times of war and their closest family members. A second addition to the Veteran’s Section has been developed. These two sections have served as the final resting place for nearly two-thirds of 1,000 veterans in Graceland. An 80 square feet Field of Honor, with a flagpole in the center of the Veteran’s Sections, marks the spot. .
In 1950, two 105-millimeter howitzers were brought by truck from the Rock Island arsenal and placed in the Field of Honor. There is a circle walk of colorful Crab Orchard stone around the field pieces and flagpole, and outside this walk are bronze plaques placed by families of servicemen buried overseas or lost at sea.
Memorial Day programs honoring war veterans have been held in Decatur's cemeteries for more than 100 years. Since the late 1940's, Graceland has held ceremonies at the Field of Honor in Graceland..
Babyland Isle of Innocence
One of our unique features is the heart-shaped Babyland Isle of Innocence. Surrounded by drives, a bronze statue of a Dutch boy and girl, mounted on a Minnesota Odessa granite pedestal, occupies the center of the island. Created by a Duluth sculptor, it adds to the appeal of the architecture. The marble "Garden of Angels" statue in the Babyland section is another architectural landmark. It depicts boy and girl cherubs and a dog, and is mounted on a granite pedestal in blue pearl imported from Sweden.
Star of Hope Mausoleum
In 1969, the Star of Hope Mausoleum was ready for use. It’s one of our crowning achievements. Though not the largest or most elaborate, the mausoleum’s architecture is probably the finest in central Illinois. The middle section, done in A-style architecture, houses a 60-feet high chapel. The steep roof is covered with Buckingham slate. Two twenty-feet wings extend to the east and west of the chapel. The overall length of the building is 322 feet. The exterior is constructed with split face Lannon stone, in a random ashlar pattern with a limestone trim. An “eternally lighted” stainless steel cross is mounted on the exterior of the chapel’s front wall. The interior walls, made predominantly of marble, are polished to a mirror finish adding to the grand elegance of the Mausoleum.
Potted plants and bouquets of cut flowers are always on display on handsome tables and niches. The V-shaped plate glass windows at the ends of several side corridors provide a 180-degree view of the beautifully landscaped surroundings.
In 1953, a white Carrara marble statue depicting Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was placed at the west side of the Estate Gardens. The statue, mounted on a pyramid of three granite slabs and placed at a slightly elevated spot, is readily seen from the drives and is the most outstanding architectural feature in the cemetery.
The Garden Estates are in themselves a feature of the park-like layout of the burial sections. In 1956, Section R was opened and is said to be the first in the country to deviate from the traditional cemetery layout of row-on-row graves, which places the memorial monuments directly behind each other. In Section R, the lots are staggered and all can be seen from the drives that give access to the sections.
Yet another innovation that adds to the beauty of the facility is the Valhalla section. Adjacent to the Star of Hope Mausoleum, there is a beautiful fountain at the center which dances to the tune of the Illinois winds. At night, the lights add to the serene and peaceful environment.
The story of Fairlawn Cemetery dates back to 1913 when an abandoned brickyard, full of potholes, trenches and ridges was acquired for development. The goal was to preserve the wooded areas and natural beauty of this Decatur location while restoring the ravaged sites to some semblance of their original state. Hundreds of trees were planted in the early stages of development. Today, this well landscaped and wooded area, paved with drives, trees and grassy slopes is a major Decatur landmark.
In 1927, the Fairlawn Memorial Mausoleum was added to the cemetery near the north side. The mausoleum was the first building in Decatur to be constructed by the continuous pour operation for concrete walls. A crematory was installed on the lower level of the mausoleum in 1957. Private mausoleums are located along the top of a wooded slope near the front entrance of the cemetery..
Among the many unique features of Fairlawn Cemetery are included:
Garden of the Apostles
This is a circular colonnade of Italian marble. On the circular marble strip that links the pillars is inscribed, "Where the Spirit of the Lord Is, There is Liberty". The colonnade has a wishing well in white Carrara marble around which figures of the 12 apostles are sculpted. It serves as a memorial for all those who are buried in the section and all individual grave markers at turf level.
Garden of the Cross
Located in the southwest part of the cemetery, tall pines stand guard on knolls of rolling terrain. Japanese yews outline the cross, and within the cross, blue gray granite monuments of regulated size are placed on the lots. The first row of monuments on both the east and west sides of the cross are of Wisconsin ruby red granite.
This is Fairlawn’s most special section. A heart-shaped area in the southeast part of the cemetery is set aside for infants. The section slopes upward and has tall spruce trees standing guard. Under these trees is a mounted granite pedestal, framed in white ornamental iron grillwork. A William Blake poem in which a child talks to a little lamb is etched on the granite.
Our Valued Staff
John Renfro, President
John is the president of Graceland/Fairlawn Funeral Home, Cemeteries and Cremation Center and Moran and Goebel Funeral Home in Decatur, Illinois. He has been an active licensed funeral director and embalmer in Illinois since 1993, and a licensed Cemetery Manager and Crematory Operator through the State of Illinois.
Born in Decatur, John grew up in Lovington, Illinois, attending Millikin University and Worsham College of Mortuary Science. John served three terms as President of the Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association, and was one of the first funeral directors to be elected as ICFHA President. At the completion of his presidency, the ICFHA presented John with the CEMI award - the highest award given by the organization. John continues to serve on the ICFHA’s Board of Directors, and is also a member and board member of the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association, and a member of the National Funeral Directors Association, Illinois Funeral Directors Association and Cremation Association of North America.
John and his wife Desiree are blessed with four children - three sons and a daughter. They are active in the Decatur community as members of Ss James and Patrick Church, where John serves as a lector and Eucharistic Minister, and is a past member of the church advisory board. He is also a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus in Decatur.
Caring for families is more than a job to John. Offering unique personalized options that allow families to honor their loved ones through ceremonies and memorialization is what drives John every day.
David Goebel, General Manager/Funeral Director
David grew up on a farm in rural central Illinois the fifth of eight children. He began working at an early age on the family farm and as he got older he would accompany his father as he went to help in his uncle’s funeral home in his hometown of Morrisonville.
After graduating high school in 1982 and attending Lincoln Land Community College for two years, he began working full-time on the family farm. At the same time, he began to work part-time at a Funeral Home/Ambulance Service in a neighboring town as an Emergency Medical Technician. During his employment at the Funeral Home/Ambulance Service, he was called on to work visitations, funerals, and assist with other aspects of the funeral business. It was during this time that David’s interest in funeral service re-emerged.
After the death of his father in December of 1987, David enrolled at Worsham College of Mortuary Science and graduated in September of 1989. After his apprenticeship and nearly five years of employment at a funeral home in Springfield, David moved to Decatur to begin his career at J. J. Moran & Sons Funeral Home now Moran & Goebel Funeral Home.
David and his wife Karen (Weaver), a native of Taylorville, IL, live in Mt. Zion and are members of Holy Family Catholic Church. They are the proud parents of four children: Joshua, Kayla, Jessica, and Carson; loving grandparents of Addison, Sophia, Caleb, Emma and Jacey and devoted pet parents to Maggie a Yorkie/Maltese. David is a member of many organizations in the community, has served on numerous boards holding many offices, and has been a licensed funeral director and embalmer in the state of Illinois since 1989.
Chelsea Wilkerson, Sales Manager
Chelsea Wilkerson joined Graceland Fairlawn in the sales department several years ago and is a Sales Manager. When we asked what attracted Chelsea to this field, she said: “I had past experience in banking where I had helped people settle estates at time of death.”
Chelsea enjoys spending time with her family when she is not working. When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Chelsea said: “My success in this industry last year.”
Kay Lydick, Office Manager
Kay Lydick joined the administrative department 11 years ago and is an Office Manager. Kay was previously in customer service for 20 years. When we asked what attracted Kay to this field, She said: “When I started it was just a job, now I feel different… helping people during this tough time makes me feel like I'm in the right place.”
When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Kay said: “When my husband passed away earlier this year I was so proud of the people I work with, a great group of people: My friends and family were really impressed.”
Tonya Culp, Office Manager
Mark Harper, Superintendent
Daisy Kelly, Funeral Director
Neomi Pitchford, Funeral Director
Ron Price, Funeral Director
Greg Pike, Funeral Director
Danielle Scleicher, Funeral Director/Embalmer Apprentice
Jo Green, Administrative Associate
Joyce Green joined the administrative department 17 years ago and is an Administrative Associate. She is on the board of directors of ICFHA and on the women's committee at Maranatha Assembly of God. When we asked what attracted Joyce to this field, She said: “Personally going through a bad experience with Graceland Fairlawn.”
Joyce has been married for 20 years with 3 sons and 5 grandchildren. She enjoys reading, baking and spending time with family and friends. She and her husband also show a 1932 street rod every chance they get.
When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Joyce said: “Making an angry customer happier before they leave. I'm also very proud of my team; Robin, Dena, and Chandra- they are the best!”
Chandra Quehl, Administrative Associate
Chandra Quehl joined the administrative department 6 years ago and is an administrative assistant.
Mike Schoneman, Administrative Associate
Michael Schoneman joined 4 years ago and is in funeral detail.
Dena Richmond, Administrative Associate
Dena Richmond joined the administrative department 6 years ago and is an administrative assistant. When we asked what attracted Dena to this field, She said: “I like working with people.”
Robin Keyes, Administrative Associate
Robin Keyes joined the administrative department 10 years ago and is an administrative assistant. She is a member of St. James and Patrick Catholic Church. Robin has been for married for 24 years and has 5 children. When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Robin said: “Being nominated and winning the Helmsman Award.”
Kayla Summers, Researcher
Edward J. Wells Jr., Staff Associate
Melissa B Stanley, Family Service Supervisor
John Brosam, Family Service Counselor
Chandler Jones, Family Service Counselor
Lauren Herington, Family Service Counselor
Dustin Bradshaw, Family Service Counselor
John Lornson, Family Service Counselor
Shannon Tarter, Community Service Counselor
Shannon Tarter joined Graceland Fairlawn in the sales department 2 years ago and is an Advance Planning Consultant. When we asked what attracted Shannon to this field, She said: “I think it is wise to preplan and I enjoy helping families with it.” Shannon has 3 children and enjoys roller skating.
Stephanie Smith, Family Service Counselor
Donna Hood, Community Service Counselor
Donna Hood joined the sales department 8 years ago and is a Community Service Advisor. She is a member of car clubs. Donna was previously in the funeral industry for 27 years. Donna has been married for 46 years with 2 sons,1 granddaughter, 1 grandson and twin great-grandchildren and enjoys dancing and babysitting.
When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Donna said: “To know I have helped someone.”
Steve Seely, Cemetery Caretaker
Stephen Seely, a cemetery caretaker, joined the grounds crew 34 years ago. Stephen is married with 1 daughter and is interested in God, corvettes, and snakes.
Larry McDaniel, Cemetery Caretaker
Larry Dale McDaniel joined 6 years ago and is a groundsman. When we asked what attracted Larry Dale to this field, He said: “I found it interesting.” When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Larry Dale said: “Training the birds then watching them fly at the services.”
Rodney Standley, Cemetery Caretaker
Rodney Standley joined the maintenance department 5 years ago and is a cemetery caretaker. Rodney was educated for 2 years in trade school and 2 years in college. He was previously a car dealer mechanic and tractor mechanic for 2 years. When we asked what attracted Rodney to this field, He said: “I wanted an occupational environment change.”
Rodney has been married for 40 years with 3 grandsons and 1 Yorkshire terrier.
Drew Campbell, Cemetery Caretaker
Carl Patrick, Cemetery Caretaker
Paul Gentry, Cemetery Caretaker
Lane A. Mosser, Cemetery Caretaker
Rev. Donald Sutton, Funeral Assistant
Donald Sutton joined the staff department 2 years ago and is a staff associate. He is an Associate Pastor at the 2nd Church of God. When we asked what attracted Donald to this field, He said: “The chance to help family's at their lowest time.” Donald has been married for 29 years with 3 wonderful children, Joshua, Elizabeth and Caleb as well as 6 grandchildren.
Bob Bauer, Funeral Assistant
Robert Bauer joined 7 years ago and is a funeral assistant. He is a member of Kiwanis "Goldenk", St James & Patrick Catholic Church, Association of Professional Baseball Players of America, Illinois Audubon Society, Kwisa Chapter 24, Korea War, AARP and AAA. Robert was previously a salesman for a welding supply company and professional baseball player for 7 years. When we asked what attracted Robert to this field, He said: “Knowing John Renfro and the opportunity to work at his side.”
Robert has been married for 6.5 years.
Trace Wade, Funeral Assistant
Barbara Green, Funeral Assistant
Barbara Green joined 5 years ago and is a funeral assistant. She is a member of First Baptist Church. Barbara was previously in banking. When we asked what attracted Barbara to this field, She said: “Compassion for others.” When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Barbara said: “When I meet someone, like at the mall, and they say "Hello" or "Thank you", then I am glad I was able to help.”
Laura Singleton, Funeral Assistant
Laura Singleton joined the staff 3 years ago and is a housekeeper. She is a member of Decatur Alumni Association, COTLG #1, NAACP and the Decatur Art Council. Laura has an associates degree in Liberal Arts and was previously at Caterpillar Tractor Co. for 6 years. When we asked what attracted Laura to this field, She said: “I was looking for enjoyable part-time employment.”
When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Laura said: “Being there to comfort someone during this difficult time and to listen and pray with them when necessary.”
Rev. Larry Turpin, Funeral Assistant
Bruce Logan, Funeral Assistant
Bruce Logan joined the staff 10.5 years ago and is a funeral assistant. He is a member of Decatur Breakfast Sertoma Club, Golden K Club and Decatur Celebration. When we asked what attracted Bruce to this field, He said: “To help people in their time of need, when they need me the most.”
Bruce is married with 1 dog "Oreo" and enjoys helping people in his community, loves working in his yard and flowers and just being out in the country air.
When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Bruce said: “When I was able to help a friend when his mother passed away and how proud I was of the great job the whole team did with her service.”
Roy D. Abbott, Funeral Assistant
Don Hyland, Funeral Assistant
Donald Hyland joined 15 years ago and is a funeral assistant. He is a 3rd degree Masonic Shriner and a member of the Decatur Shrine Club as well as a member of the I.O.O.F Illinois for over 53 years. When we asked what attracted Donald to this field, He said: “A desire to work with people after retirement.” When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Donald said: “When I have had the opportunity to help families that I know personally.”
Michael Tapscott, Funeral Assistant
Marsha Leckrone, Funeral Assistant
Marsha Leckrone joined the staff 5 1/2 years ago and is a staff associate. She is a member of AT&T Pioneers Club. Marsha retired from AT&T after 33 years. When we asked what attracted Marsha to this field, She said: “After my husband's death, Mr. Goebel offered me a greeter's job. I am a people person and I love my job. If I can make one person feel better, I'm happy.” Marsha was married for 40 years until her husband’s death, 5 1/2 years ago. She has 2 sons and 3 grandchildren.
When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Marsha said: “I have had several people tell me they appreciate me being at the visitation and funerals. I am proud of both funeral homes and they please so many people.”
Rev Marshall Hughes, Funeral Assistant
Rev. O. L. Banks, Funeral Assistant
Rev. O.L. Banks joined 5 years ago. Rev. Banks is a minister and assistant pastor at St John MB Church as well as a member of O.W.B.D.A. When we asked what attracted Rev. Banks to this field, He said: “I like to help and assist families, the loss of a loved one is trying.” O.L. is married with 7 children and enjoys reading, teaching and sharing the Gospel of Christ. When asked to give the proudest moment in this profession Rev. Banks said: “Being a part of each families life that I serve.”
Jack Dougherty, Funeral Assistant
Rev. Elgin Hawthorne Jr.
Elgin Hawthorne Jr. joined the staff of Graceland Fairlawn 6 months ago and is the Pastor of Community Church of God.
John Comerford, In Loving Memory
John was born August 19, 1939 and passed away on Sunday, March 30, 2014. John worked as a Funeral Assistant for Moran & Goebel and Graceland Fairlawn for seven years.
Wes Gardner, In Loving Memory
In Loving Memory
September 19, 1925-September 12, 2010
Six Years of Distinguished Service