The National Funeral Directors Association is delighted to announce that Ellen Wynn McBrayer is the inaugural winner of the NFDA Inspiration Award. McBrayer received her award during the 2023 NFDA Professional Women’s Conference, which is taking place May 5-7 in San Antonio, Texas.

The Inspiration Award is an NFDA recognition that is conferred annually during the Professional Women’s Conference on an exceptional female or nonbinary individual who has made noteworthy professional contributions to funeral service or a related field. The winner is selected by a distinguished panel of judges that included funeral directors, educators, suppliers, funeral service association leaders and allied professionals.

“I can’t think of a better recipient of our first Inspiration Award than Ellen McBrayer,” said NFDA CEO Christine Pepper. “From serving families and mentoring colleagues to being actively involved in the funeral service profession and her community, Ellen embodies so many positive qualities that make her an inspiration to all who know her. This award not only recognizes her noteworthy accomplishments but will fuel her fire as she continues her remarkable career.”

Congratulations to Ellen for receiving the first ever NFDA Inspiration Award,” said Jennifer Kaset, Regional Vice President, Sales at National Guardian Life Insurance Company, which is sponsoring the NFDA Inspiration Award. “Ellen’s work in our profession is truly inspirational. From providing knowledgeable, expert guidance with compassion to the families she serves to being an authoritative representative for the funeral profession to news outlets nationwide to serving as a valuable community resource through hosting events and establishing a financial scholarship for high school seniors, Ellen has made tremendous contributions that reach beyond the funeral industry. It’s an honor for me to be a part of the NFDA Inspiration Award process and I look forward to celebrating this year’s award recipient,”

About Ellen Wynn McBrayer

A third-generation funeral director, McBrayer serves as President and CFO of Jones-Wynn Funeral Homes and Crematory, which has locations in Villa Rica and Douglasville, Georgia, and Meadowbook Memory Garden in Villa Rica.

When it comes to serving families in her community, McBrayer adheres to two credos: “A funeral is not just a day in the life but a lifetime in one day,” and “Helping people moment by moment, step by step.” She embodies these standards as she delivers personalized services to the grieving families she serves. She also instills this ethic in staff at Jones-Wynn and other funeral service professionals she has mentored.

McBrayer is extensively engaged in the funeral service profession and is an active member of NFDA, the Georgia Funeral Directors Association, Georgia Cemetery Association Board of Directors, Southern Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association, Villa Rica Georgia Cemetery Commission.

With NFDA, Ellen is a current member of NFDA’s Spokesperson Team and Pursuit of Excellence Task Force. She is a former member and chair of the NFDA Convention Education Task Force.

McBrayer is a true champion for engaging and educating the communities she serves. She regularly presents workshops on estate planning, at-need planning, planning in advance and other funeral service-related topics at her funeral home, churches, community centers and community fairs. She hosts an annual teachable day of community involvement for high school students at Meadowbook Memory Garden.

McBrayer is a member of both the Douglas County and Carroll County Chambers of Commerce. She is involved with the Douglas County Senior Citizens Picnic Committee, the Veterans Activity Committee, the Villa Rica Holiday Canned Food Drive, the Villa Rica Golden City Lions Club, the Thomas Dorsey Birthplace and Heritage Board. McBrayer actively supports a sunrise service every Easter for the community of Villa Rica, Georgia.

Symenthia Gillyard, a member of the Jones-Wynn Funeral Home staff who nominated McBrayer for the award, stated, “Ellen is a pillar of this community with a vested interest in quality funeral services for families in need. She has offered and given me an opportunity to work with her and inspires me and countless others along the way … [I] am eternally grateful to Ellen for being a beacon of light … to me personally… She has positively impacted ALL the people of Georgia. Her skills, knowledge, willingness to help others, dedication to funeral service and the community, makes her the right nominee for this prestigious award.”

Another colleague, Sedale Green, Jordan Funeral Home in Darlington, South Carolina, who also sent a letter of recommendation for McBrayer said, “As a funeral service practitioner, she displays exemplary leadership as a forward thinker…. Ellen is a wellspring of knowledge and ideas… I can attest each conversation [with her] enhances my life and encourages me to thrive… Not only is she deserving of the Inspiration Award because of her labor, it is an honor which will allow her to realize that her colleagues appreciate her trailblazing work.”

About the NFDA Inspiration Award

The NFDA Inspiration Award has its roots in the NFDA Initiative Award, which NFDA conferred for approximately 20 years, beginning in the mid-1990s, during the Professional Women’s Conference. The program was refreshed and reimagined as the Inspiration Award, which is presented annually during the NFDA Professional Women’s Conference.

Nominations were accepted online from February 15 to March 31. NFDA seeks enterprising nominees who consistently take the initiative to elevate the funeral service profession. They serve as a mentor to colleagues. Their energy and independent spirit are examples to others. Their efforts result in significant accomplishments at the local, national and/or international level.

Honorees must also have been currently employed in the funeral service profession or a death-care-related field with a minimum of five years’ experience working directly with families. They must also:

· Identify as a female or non-binary individual.

· Be actively involved in community and professional service organizations.

· Be actively involved in efforts to educate the public about the value of meaningful memorialization and/or funeral directors.

·  Actively participate in professional development activities.

The winner was selected by a distinguished panel of judges:

·   Tami Baird, Baird Funeral Home, Troy Ohio

·   Matt Baskerville, Reeves & Baskerville Funeral Homes, Coal City, Illinois

·   Jolena Grande, Cypress College, Cypress, California

·   Vicki Jay, National Alliance for Children’s Grief, Lubbock, Texas

·   Sabrina Joynes, American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service, New York, New York

·   Colette Kemp – Kemp Funeral Group, Fort Myers, Florida

·   Dawn Nelson, Zacherl Funeral Home, Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin

·   Pam Scott, Kansas Funeral Directors Association, Topeka, Kansas

·   Mary Steele, Arnett & Steele Funeral Home and Cremation Center, Pineville, Kentucky

·   Natisha Webb Raines, National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association, Union City, Georgia

More information is available online at

Comments (4)

  • Congratulations!

    Robin Richter | May 8, 2023 at 5:14 pm
  • Ellen, congratulations on receiving this reward. I noticed that this is the inaugural award, so that means you have set the standard for all future award winners., and now of course all future winners will be compared to you. This is a very special award and the judges picked the right person.

    Ronald F Hale Green Acres Cemetery, Columbus, GA | May 8, 2023 at 6:39 pm
  • Ellen, congratulations on receiving this reward. I noticed that this is the inaugural award, so that means you have set the standard for all future award winners., and now of course all future winners will be compared to you. This is a very special award and the judges picked the right person.

    Ron Hale Green Acres Cemetery, Columbus, GA | May 8, 2023 at 6:40 pm
  • Well deserved! Congratulations to Ellen!

    Matt Bailey | May 9, 2023 at 9:06 pm

Leave a Message

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Comment *
Full Name *
Email Address *

Related Posts

Visit regularly to get the latest insights on the profession.

Learn from the past, look to the future and optimize business operations with the insights on