The Admin Awards has bestowed its most prestigious award — the Colleen Barrett Award for Administrative Excellence for the Gulf Coast Region — to none other than Winnifred Hurston, whose time at Carriage Services recently came to an end after a stellar career.

It is the Admin Awards’ most prestigious award and honors the admin that best demonstrates many of the qualities that enabled Colleen Barrett’s rise from legal secretary to president and chief operating officer of Southwest Airlines.

Sunny Nunan, founder of the recognition program, said on LinkedIn, “Winnie is a 37-year veteran of the Administrative Profession, most recently serving as Board Liaison and Senior Executive Assistant to the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Carriage Services, (Mel Payne).” She added, “With an extensive background as a Legal Secretary, Office Manager, and Executive Assistant, Winnie has shouldered many responsibilities, ranging from administrative support to managing financial affairs and intricate legal matters. Winnie has successfully navigated the complexities of Carriage Services’ decentralized structure, facilitating seamless communications between HQ and its 200 subsidiaries nationwide, significantly enhancing the company’s operational efficiency.”

Nunan added, “Winnie’s commitment to excellence has earned high praise. As her executive shared, ‘Winnie is the highest-level Executive Admin I’ve seen in my 35-years of experience across four publicly-held companies. She is counted on for her insightful perspectives and comprehensive knowledge of corporate affairs and has lived the Carriage Values for 17 years straight, every single day.'”

The award program was founded by Nunan, who was Inspired by her mother, a career executive secretary who retired just shy of her 80th birthday.

Hurston said on LinkedIn, “Sunny, I commend and thank you for your vision and dedication to your mother by founding an organization that recognized her as well as gifted administrative personnel across the U.S. There are millions of administrative performance heroes that deserve the type of red-carpet treatment and recognition the Admin Awards rolls out.”

Winning the Admin Awards most prestigious Colleen Barrett Award for the Houston and Gulf Coast Region was the perfect closure to the Carriage Services’ chapter of Hurston’s esteemed career, she said. She noted that her job ended just recently due to Payne’s retirement, who co-founded the company and served as its CEO and executive chairman for many years. “I cherish the relationships cultivated with my mentors (Mel Payne, Bill Goetz and Steve Metzger), colleagues, and friends during my 17+ years tenure supporting Mel Payne / Carriage Services,” she said. “And I will always be the most emphatic cheerleader of Carriage Services for its continued success! I look forward to the next exciting phase of my career.”

She went on to congratulate her fellow Houston and Gulf Coast Region Award Winners.  “Thank you for your accolades and well wishes!!” Hurston added. “I am overjoyed to have won the prestigious Colleen Barrett Award. I’ve smiled and laughed so much that my cheeks hurt.”

Thomas Parmalee, founder of, congratulated Hurston on winning such a prestigious honor. “Ms. Hurston has always been willing to help me throughout the years whenever I have needed to get some insights from Carriage Services,” he said. “She is a prime example of what you can achieve by working hard and being a person of integrity. I am so happy she has won this honor, as she richly deserves it.”

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Comments (2)

  • I have known Winnie for many years at Carriage Services and know that she is well deserving of this award for all she has done for me and anyone who calls her for assistance.

    Dwayne Spence | April 6, 2024 at 2:44 pm
  • Mr. Spence: Winnie is amazing: Anyone would be very lucky to have her on staff. We wish her the best of luck moving forward! | April 11, 2024 at 2:06 pm

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