Congratulations to our 2014 Professional Women’s Conference Scholarship Recipients

2014 Winners with Kathy

Terry Kathryn Parrish

Terry’s decision to enter the profession was influenced by a funeral director who assisted her family during a time of great loss. She lost six family members and friends, ranging from newborn to elderly in one year. A former nurse, Terry realized she wanted to commit her life to helping those who are going through emotionally difficult periods in their lives, and help them through their grief.

Terry is a funeral director in Mesquite, Texas and works at the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service guiding students in their aspirations to pursue a career in the funeral service profession. Along with her busy career, Terry is working toward her Master’s degree in Human Behavior and is also the director of the Women in Black Organization at the Dallas Institute.

Recent community projects include cemetery beautification, making lap quilts for local nursing home residents, holding a clothing drive for a women’s shelter to help women who are returning to the workforce, book drives, and food drives for a shelter caring for abused children.

 Christine Elizabeth Bushby

Christine didn’t choose to become a funeral director and embalmer…she was called to it. From the age of 10, she knew she was going to become a funeral director, and that the job was more than “wearing a black suit and driving a hearse.” Rather, it was taking care of families when the days were dark, and honoring their loved one’s memory the best way she knew how. Christine answered her calling to funeral service through her career in the air force.

Her career in the air force has taken many paths, and she currently cares for fallen military members as a Mortuary Affairs Specialist for the 42nd Air Force Support Squadron on Maxwell Air Force Base in Maxwell, Alabama.  Christine says nothing is more humbling than caring for those who sacrifice so much for so many.

She is the president of the Maxwell Gunter Enlisted Spouses Club, a group that offers immeasurable support to the entire military community.  She also owns and operates a thrift store on the air force base that generates funds for morale and welfare for the nearly 12,000 members assigned to the base, including scholarships and grants.

Among her many accolades, Christine earned the Dr. Beverly L. Schmalzried Legacy Award in 2009 and 2011 for her work in Mortuary Affairs, and again in 2013 for her work with Air Force families who have unexpectedly lost children. She says the honor of caring for the fallen Air Force members and their families is rewarding and humbling.

 Jorida Elsa Mihali-Allison

Jorida decided to pursue a career in funeral service during her senior year in high school after hearing a woman speak at a “Career Day.” Jorida was drawn to her charismatic nature, her calm demeanor and her confidence. She wanted to be just like her. She wanted her confidence and her peace, and wanted to be the woman who could truly help someone during such a special time in their life.

Having been born and raised in Tirana, Albania where Jorida says the funeral traditions are very different (No funeral homes, no funeral directors, and embalming and cremation are not practiced), her parents were not supportive and strongly opposed her wish to persue a career in funeral service. After following other career paths at her parents’ suggestion, Jorida realized that becoming a funeral director was not a choice… it was a calling she simply could not ignore.

Jorida is currently the vice president of the Mortuary Science Class of 2014 at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan. She is also a Mortuary Science Resident Trainee at RJ Nixon Funeral Home in Wyandotte, Michigan.

Kavita Pavamani

Kavita is currently enrolled as a part-time student in the Mortuary Science Program at Community College of Baltimore County in Cantonsville, Maryland. She also works full time as a business consultant and volunteers as Project Manager for Prana International, a foundation that works toward alleviating poverty in developing countries by implementing microcredit projects that serve to improve the quality of life for poor and vulnerable communities.

Like her career in funeral service, Kavita is mindful that her work with Prana International truly impacts lives. She was drawn to funeral service in 2006, when her father, who was visiting her in Baltimore, suffered a heart attack and died. Although traumatic, the professional care imparted by the funeral home made a lasting impression; it was the first time Kavita saw a body treated with dignity and respect.

Kavita was raised in Calcutta, India where she says handling the dead is considered “taboo.” While the majority of Calcutta’s 19 million metro and suburban citizens choose to cremate within a few hours as is tradition in the Hindu faith, Kavita says there is still an immense need for a fully functioning funeral home. Currently, there are only two official funeral homes, and, according to Kavita, the funeral home workers do not respect one another, the grieving families, or the bodies in their care.

Kavita is slated to graduate with her degree in Mortuary Science in 2015. She has made the commitment to begin Calcutta’s first modern funeral home where the dead are treated with dignity and their families with compassion. She understands this will be a long road with many obstacles as she works to erase the stigma associated with non-Hindu burial practices.

As a woman in a highly-patriarchal society, Kavita says the task may be even more daunting. But, she is encouraged and inspired by the examples set forth by the women of funeral service here in the United States as she pioneers something “brand new” in a country that has a completely different mindset toward deathcare. She draws strength and wisdom from the women who have walked this road ahead of her, and those who are alongside.

Isabel Christina Espinosa

Isabel always thought that her calling was to be a missionary in Africa. It wasn’t until her last semester at Tulane University in New Orleans that she felt a strong pull to the funeral service profession. She had contacted her local funeral to “volunteer” for a day, and she says that day changed her life forever…that it felt “so right” to be there.  Isabel finished her degree in Sociology and went on to earn her degree in mortuary science at the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service.

Isabel draws upon her father’s wisdom that your career should not be a job, but a hobby. She doesn’t view her career as job or a hobby, but something even more fulfilling: a ministry. Isabel is doing the missionary work she’s always wanted to do, but in a different form. She says that the families she serves have taught her that you don’t have to go across seas to help people…that it’s sometimes our neighbors who are in need of help.

She is honored to serve her community as the first woman Location Manager at Ourso Funeral Home. She also serves as the Southeast District Governor for the Louisiana Funeral Directors Association. Isabel has called upon her sociology degree to let families know funeral directors are there for them even after their loved one is buried.

In the last five years, Isabel and Ourso Funeral Home have teamed with local civic groups to implement fundraisers and community events. Her efforts are changing the community’s perception that funeral homes aren’t sad and gloomy places, rather, that funeral service professionals are there for the community in times of great need, as well as times of great joy.