Past Award Winners
2021: Whitney Pegues-Beck
In everything she does, Whitney Pegues-Beck, President of W. E. Pegues, Inc., demonstrates a pursuit of excellence and dedication to funeral service and the legacy of her family’s firm.
Career Excellence. In 2020, Whitney successfully navigated the succession process and became the owner operator of her family’s firm. “Whitney has taken the reins of the firm and brought it to new heights,” said fellow NextGen member Josh Blake. “She has overseen renovations and upgrades in equipment and software and seeks what’s most efficient while respecting her very traditional community.”
Whitney has taken the lead in the design, land acquisition and development of "Brookside Gardens," an innovative memorial park garden project in the Lee County community, which will include a non-funeral event venue. She also helped to develop the firm’s "Cremation Choices" program, which has helped her firm increase market share with families choosing cremation.
Committed to the Community. When Whitney joined her local Rotary in 2013, she was one of the few females and the only young adult member. With her guidance, the group began a special recruiting committee to focus on generating more female and young adult members. She suggested hosting recruiting happy hour and after-hours meetings to help the Rotary grow and continue to put service above self.
When Whitney became a member of the GumTree Museum Guild, they soon saw young leadership talent and asked Whitney to serve as the President of the Guild of Volunteers. Whitney worked to turn the museum’s only annual fundraiser into the “For the Love of Art Gala.” Thanks to Whitney and her team’s active community outreach and creative advertising, the attendance doubled, tripling the event’s revenue, and making it a yearly favorite in the community. “Her positive leadership and implementation of professional business practices to a nonprofit organization has increased the standing of the museum in the community,” said Museum Board Member Kathy Corban. “As a result of her leadership and money management skills, the museum is unequivocally in the best financial shape in recent memory.”
Of the many organizations Whitney volunteers her time to, one of her favorites is the Tupelo Women’s Club. She’s become a vital member of the Holiday Tree Festival Committee, recruiting local businesses to contribute so the Club may donate when local charities have low donation seasons.
Selected Involvement. Whitney has participated in numerous Selected programs, meetings and work groups over the years, including every NextGen Seminar since 2014. She served as the NextGen Seminar Co-Chair in 2017 and is a graduate of the Selected Leadership Academy. “Since meeting Whitney at my first NextGen Seminar in 2015, I have found myself continuously impressed with her,” said Josh Blake. “When she was the co-chair for NextGen, we all knew we could trust her to lead our group. She did an incredible job organizing events and making sure everyone had a pleasant experience. But truth be told, she continues to lead the NextGen group. I would say she is an unofficial leader of our group.”
Together with her husband, Jason, Whitney is a committed and loving parent to her young son, Harrison.
2020: Colin Haskett
Colin Haskett, Vice President of Haskett Funeral Homes Ltd, is the fifth generation of his family to choose a career in funeral service. His passion for serving his community is evident in his many achievements.
Career Excellence. In recent years, fueled by a desire to learn, Colin has received his crematorium operators training, learned and performed the skill of onsite monument engraving and more recently expanded his knowledge of the internet with the co-creation of CanadaObits.ca. Colin was the founding President and current board member of Southwest Crematoriums Ltd., a crematorium built by a group of family owned funeral homes.
Colin is forward thinking and constantly invigorating the firm with fresh ideas. Colin and three of his staff have become Certified Funeral Celebrants. “Colin has always stayed one step ahead of the changes taking place in funeral service to put on a powerful and personalized celebration of life that families love,” said Wes Elmes, Funeral Director at Haskett Funeral Homes. In fact, Colin was asked to present on the topic at the Funeral Service Association of Canada conference in Ottawa last year.
Colin empowers his staff to come up with creative ways to honor the life of the deceased, like transforming a funeral luncheon for a car lover into a car show on the arena floor without telling the family, having a driving range set up for friends and family of a golf-lover, or asking the local tractor dealership to bring down some shiny new tractors on the front yard for a farmer.
Committed to the Community. Colin’s dedication to service is abundantly apparent in his commitment to numerous local causes in in his community. He serves on the Board of Directors and as the leader of the capital campaign for funding for Jessica's House, a residential hospice in Exeter, Ontario that relies solely on donations to keep the hospice running. He is a past president of the Lucan Lions Club and continues to be an active member, assisting with as many events as possible. Colin also serves on the Parks and Recreation Committee for the town of Lucan Biddulph, assisting with the maintenance and planning of renovations of the local community center. “Colin is always putting others ahead of himself,” said Wes Elmes. “Whenever he recognizes a need for assistance, he is the first person to pick up the phone and offer help. He has offered random acts of kindness on Facebook. After a heavy snowfall, he offers to blow out the lane of anyone in need, or help them weed their gardens in the spring, or rake leaves in the fall. He purchased a batch of Tim Horton cards to hand out to people he sees in the public doing a good deed.”
Awards and Selected Involvement. Colin received the Keith Coutts Award in 2014, delivered by Ontario Funeral Service Association in recognition of ongoing contributions to the funeral service industry. In 2018, Colin received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Township of Lucan-Biddulph, for the outstanding amount of time put in to volunteering for the town. Additionally, Colin has participated in several Selected programs and meetings over the years and is currently serving as NextGen Advisory Group Co-Chair.
Colin is a dedicated father and husband to his wife, Carolyn, and three children, Elliott, Grayson and Paige.
2019: John Devaney
John David Devaney is a 4th-generation Funeral Director and the Vice President of Funeral Services at Baue Funeral Homes, Crematory and Cemetery in St. Charles, MO. Over the years, John has grown from an apprentice funeral director to Vice President of the firm. During that time, he has become a husband, a father, a valued team member, a mentor to younger staff members and a lifetime learner that leads by example everyday.
While balancing working full-time at the firm with his personal and volunteer obligations, John also earned his MBA that helped hone his business acumen and provide the tools to target and improve countless aspects of the business. Over the last two years, John took on two struggling businesses under the Baue brand and succeeded in creating profitability and stability for both.
John brings his sense of fun into the workplace by ensuring staff teams have quarterly outings. From escape rooms to bumper cars, rock climbing to laser tag, John has been instrumental in the continued success of these programs. He also designed a new room for team members for private breaks and quiet times featuring relaxing chairs, sound barriers to the outside, and soothing scents and music.
John also serves as the firm’s community liaison, media spokesperson, and MC for many of the programs that Baue hosts each year, including community grief programs, Holiday Remembrance, Seeds of Hope, and the Peace Officers and Veterans Memorial programs. “What makes John stand out from other successful next generation leaders is his community involvement. To lead a successful organization takes hard work and dedication. Actively engaging this same philosophy into the community is something to admire,” said Milva Finnegan, Contracts Manager & CEO of Karhu LLC.
“John has been an active part of The Salvation Army Advisory Council for four years. His leadership during our Tree of Lights Campaign has helped us raise over $500,000 for our local community. Additionally, John spearheads a food drive each year during the Christmas Holidays that fills our food pantry and has helped so many families with children with their gift drive program, bringing Santa and his elves to entertain the children. He is an integral part of what we do in this community,” said Major Ron Key of the Salvation Army St. Charles Corp.
John received the Paul Harris Fellow Award from St. Charles Rotary in 2015 for his contributions to the Rotary Foundation and the Outstanding Volunteer Service/Business Leader Award in 2017 for the Jobs for Life Program at the Oasis Food Pantry.
In 2014, John graduated from the Selected Leadership Academy as a member of the inaugural class. “John brought a lot of positive energy and helpful perspective as well as support to his classmates and all Academy members. John has also continued to be an active Alumni member,” said Academy Dean Marguerite Ham.
John grew up in St. Charles, MO, and still lives there with his wife, Emily, and their two sons, Jaxon and Evan.
2018: Reid Trimble
Reid Trimble is a licensed funeral director and the Treasurer of Trimble Funeral Homes and Crematory in Moline, IL. Since joining the firm in 2004, Reid has spearheaded numerous projects that have touched all aspects of the firm. “I am extremely impressed with all Reid has accomplished for his family’s firm. His innovation is truly an asset for our entire profession,” said one judge on the Professional of the Year Award panel. Recognizing the trend of rising cremation rates, Reid was solely responsible for establishing and marketing the Cremation Society of the Quad Cities in 2015 developed an ad campaign for “Worry-Free Cremation Care.”
In 2014, Reid took the lead in developing the concept for Trimble Pointe, which now serves as the umbrella for ten brands. Reid was also responsible for all aspects of developing the bar at CityView Celebrations, the brand’s reception center, from designing the bar and lounge, to securing a liquor license and hiring bartenders and servers.
In 2017, Reid was named “Manager of the Year” by Veterans Funeral Care in recognition of his dedication to programs that support veterans. Reid was a national Board Member for Operation Toy Soldier, which brought in over 500 toys to the funeral home to be distributed to children of deployed and non-deployed Military. Reid also instituted the Retire Your Flag Program at the firm, which has collected over 1200 flags. Last year, Reid partnered the firm with a local TV station and grocery chain to bring Operation Honor Guard, a nonprofit dedicated to funding Honor Guards across the country, to the Quad Cities.
Reid has also been very involved in the Illinois Funeral Directors Association (IFDA). He served as Regional Director from 2008 through 2013 and participated in a full restructuring of the association, along with a website and logo redesign.
Reid has set standards for the entire staff team to ensure consistent care is provided and has established a reputation in the community as a caring funeral director. “He sincerely shows his concern for the families he serves, a trait he inherited from both grandmothers, one a funeral director and one a social worker,” says Reid’s father, Eric Trimble.
Reid is the proud father of four young children, including a 2-month-old. When not at the firm, most of Reid’s time is spent with his wife and children, including coaching Dad’s Club baseball, supporting Cub Scouts and dance class activities. Reid’s father, Eric, sums it up well. “Our staff respects him, clergy and other partners acknowledge him for his abilities, and more importantly, our families appreciate him for the caring service he gives them.”
2017: Helen Loring Dear
Helen Loring Dear, President of Porter Loring Mortuaries, began her journey in the funeral profession at the age of 16 as a housekeeper at her family’s firm. Since then, she has worked in virtually every position within the firm, performing each role with the utmost compassion for the families she serves. “When I hear that Porter Loring Mortuaries and Helen are handling a funeral, I know my job on the pastoral team just got easier because Helen cares about the families as if they were her own,” said Reverend Michael P. Crocker of St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church. Helen is active in numerous organizations in her profession and in her community, and her involvement in Selected has played an integral part of her development and growth. She is a Selected Study Groups participant and a graduate of Selected’s Leadership Academy, an intensive two-year leadership training program. Graduates of this program complete a Capstone project to demonstrate and apply the leadership tools developed over the course of the program.
The focus of her Capstone project was on teen suicide rates in the San Antonio area. She soon determined that there were few resources for teens in her community and wanted that to change. For a year, she worked with several local nonprofit directors to plan a Roundtable on Teen Suicide. The meeting resulted in the creation of the Alamo Area Teen Suicide Prevention Coalition (AATSPC).
“I have been personally involved with and marveled at the community commitment that Helen has made which resulted in establishment of the AATSPC. Helen’s leadership regarding this pressing issue has now evolved into a major effort with staffing, a Teen Advisory Board and participation by almost every school district in the San Antonio region,” said Marian Sokol Ph.D., Executive Director of the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas. “She has been recognized in our community as a dynamic young woman who is among the ‘Rising Stars of Texas.’” Helen has assumed a role as Honorary Chair of the AATSPC and the group continues to grow and impact the local community.
In 2016, Helen was chosen as one of San Antonio Business Journal’s “40 under 40,” honoring young leaders succeeding in business and contributing to their community. “Helen undoubtedly has a bright future and is a remarkable reflection on her family, her community, her business and Selected,” noted one judge on the Professional of the Year Award panel.
Perhaps Helen’s father, Porter Loring, III, put it best when he said, “Beyond the professional accolades is a devoted wife and mother of two young children, who ensures that she devotes time to her family as well as taking care of the business. Integrity and perseverance are at the core of everything that Helen does”.
2016: David Speaks
David Speaks is the Vice President/Director of Community Relations at Speaks Family Legacy Chapels. Since earning his license in 2003, David has demonstrated tireless commitment to the profession.
David is responsible for executing a variety of events in the community and continually finds ways to put a personal touch on every program. Since 2007, David has organized 14 grief conferences for professional caregivers with speakers such as Dr. Alan Wolfelt and Dr. Bill Hoy. He also organizes an annual service of remembrance and has executed three successful blood drives. At his first NextGen Seminar in 2006, David was introduced to the film series “Lest They Be Forgotten.” Using the films as inspiration, David developed an annual event that included a documentary shown at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library. David expanded the reach of the messaging by bringing the film series to local nursing homes. In 2010, this event earned Speaks Family Legacy Chapels the ICCFA KIP “Keeping it Personal” Award for outstanding attention to veterans.
Over the past decade, David’s client family satisfaction rates have consistently ranked among the highest at his firm. David leads a team of six funeral directors and a large support staff, constantly training and mentoring them to achieve their best. He leads by example and instills a sense of cohesive teamwork among his colleagues. In his continued efforts to offer a more personalized service to the families he serves, David completed Insight Celebrant Training to become a Certified Celebrant in 2015.
David has attended seven NextGen Seminars and numerous other Selected meetings over the years. He served as a co-chair of the 2015 NextGen Seminar. David also was a member of the pilot class of the Selected Leadership Academy, a two-year program designed to strengthen and grow the leadership skills of funeral professionals.
Outside of work, David is the former Vice-President of the Evening Optimist Club of Independence, a group committed to making a positive impact on local youth. For over ten years, David has volunteered with Meals on Wheels, delivering hot meals to elderly residents of Independence every week. David lives in Independence, MO with his wife Jenna and two sons.
2015: Jason Goldstein
Jason Goldstein is a fourth-generation funeral director and the Vice President of Roth-Goldsteins’ Memorial Chapel in Atlantic City, NJ. Jason’s commitment to the families that he serves and his community is immediately evident in everything he does. He has never ceased to give his time to a multitude of organizations and causes including the York Children’s Foundation and the Alcove Center for Grieving Children and Their Families. Jason also served as President of Kavod, The Independent Jewish Funeral Chapels, for a six-year term.
Jason has given much of his time and effort to the Seashore Gardens Living Center, an independent not-for-profit senior living community. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for several years, he was elected and installed as the youngest Chairman of the Board in January 2014. Jason and his wife, Jessica, were the first recipients of the Young Leadership Award for dedication and commitment to the Jewish community. Together, the pair co-chaired Seashore Gardens’ black tie event, the Black and White Ball, of which the proceeds support musical programs for the home’s residents. Jason is passionate about facilitating intergenerational programs that bring children to the home for the holidays to sing, read and play mini-golf with the residents.
Jason also has a passion for technology. Throughout his time with his firm, Jason has taken on a series of projects focused on keeping Roth-Goldsteins’ on the cutting edge of technology, constantly seeking innovations that will help him and his fellow funeral directors serve their families to the fullest.
Jason lives in Linwood, NJ with his wife Jessica, and their two sons, Samuel and Luke. In his spare time, he coaches his sons’ hockey teams.
2014: AnnYager McCrosky
AnnYager McCrosky is the fourth generation of funeral directors at Stith Funeral Home in Danville, Kentucky. After graduating from the John A. Gupton College of Mortuary Arts in 2001, she immediately took on a series of projects designed to enhance offerings and to better provide for client families.
AnnYager took the initiative to educate herself on green burials and is now considered a local expert, having exhibited at the Green Expo and given several presentations on the subject. At her insistence, Stith Funeral Home became the first Kentucky member of the Green Burial Council in 2008; the firm now offers one of the largest selections of eco-friendly urns, caskets and register books in the state.
AnnYager’s dedication to her community is immediately apparent in her involvement with a variety of local causes. She is a member of the Danville Rotary Club, having served as the chair of a program that distributes dictionaries to fourth grade students in the county. In addition, she is a co-founder of the Young Professionals group of the Danville Boyle County Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Club, which bestows the “Rising Star” award, an award that she designed. As a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters for ten years, her passion for working with children is also evident in her efforts to improve and broaden a program the firm offers to families with children. She goes above and beyond to talk children through the process when a loved one dies, making herself available whenever she is needed.
AnnYager’s community focus extends far beyond the reaches of her own community. In the summer of 2002, she served as a liaison between the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the families of the victims of 9/11. She met with families on behalf of the medical examiner, answering their questions and escorting them to Memorial Park where they could leave flowers and mementos. In the fall of 2005, AnnYager volunteered in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She served in a Public Health Service captain’s position as the D-Mort liaison for the U.S. Public Health Service in Baton Rouge.
AnnYager has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout the years. Notably, in 2004, she was the youngest recipient of the Joseph W. Kelly Award from the Kentucky Board of Education, an award given to businesspeople who demonstrate outstanding leadership in promoting school improvement and equitable educational opportunities for the children of Kentucky.
An active member of Selected, AnnYager served on the NextGen Advisory Group from 2008 to 2012, and was chair in 2009-2010. In addition, she is a member of the 2012 Selected Leadership Academy pilot class, bringing much of what she has learned into practice at the firm.
AnnYager was married to Alex McCrosky in 2011. The couple lives in Danville.
2013: Neil O'Connor
Neil O'Connor manages O'Connor Mortuary, a four-generation-old family business established in 1898. Along with the chapel and crematory, O'Connor Mortuary also has two arrangement centers in San Juan Capistrano and Irvine. With his ambition, impeccable business sense and strong desire to reach out to his community, Neil has put his heart and soul into outreach that has generated some extraordinary results. For his firm, Neil has developed the Plan Well...Live Well Advanced Planning Program, created a Community Relations Department and increased employee retention through monthly employee educational workshops. He also has gone above and beyond for his community. He chaired the Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center Annual Gala for two years, raising more than $1 million each year, works with FADD (Friends Against Driving Drunk) by providing employees and a hearse for the "Every 15 Minutes" drunk driving reenactment at four Orange County high schools for the past 10 years, and served as the Master of Ceremonies for the Age Well Senior Services "Captain's Ball" which raised more than $130,000 for the Meals on Wheels program. In 2003, Neil met his wife Lisa while at a yoga retreat in Maui. Together they have a son, Jesse. Neil continues to practice Ashtanga Yoga and enjoys playing beach volleyball.
2012: Claire Austin
Claire Austin is the tenth generation, and the first female, to run Austin's Family Funeral Directors. As the leading independent funeral directors in the county of Hertfordshire, England, Austin's has been established for more than 300 years; making it one of the oldest funeral homes in the United Kingdom. Austin's includes eight branches in North East Hertfordshire, arranging more than 1,200 funerals per year. Austin's also owns and operates a Crematorium and Memorial Gardens. Claire's staff most recently has been awarded the East of England Business Champions Award for Service Excellence and the Hertfordshire Medium Business of the Year Award.
2011: Michael Schoedinger
Michael Schoedinger is President of Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services, Columbus, OH. He is a sixth generation owner of the firm, a licensed funeral director and embalmer. He has earned the Certified Funeral Service Practitioner (CFSP) from the Academy of Professional Funeral Serve Practice and the Certified Preplanning Consultant (CPC) from the National Foundation of Funeral Service. He also holds an Ohio Life & Health Insurance License, Life Appreciation Training Certification and Notary Public, State of Ohio. He spearheads the company’s public relations, advertising and marketing initiatives as well as champions the power of community relations by encouraging the firm’s 150 associates to engage routinely in community and charitable events. Michael often serves as Schoedinger’s media spokesperson and has presented countless presentations at funeral profession and other business events.