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Sherry L. Smith, President and CEO
Sherry Smith was appointed President and CEO of Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum in March 2017. Sherry has over 14 years’ experience as an advancement professional in higher education and pediatric healthcare in addition to community and volunteer leadership experience. She has managed 300 member volunteer programs and executed more than 500 events locally and nationally. Her early experiences as a small business owner, substitute teacher, and career advisor helped form her business and management skills.
“Becoming the President and CEO of a cemetery is not something that crosses one’s mind every day, but when I learned all the ways Bellefontaine serves our community, it truly spoke to my heart. I love the rich history, the beautiful gardens, the commitment to native plantings and green practices, but above all its Bellefontaine’s profound care for our families, past, present and future, that I was most excited to be a part of.”
Smith came to Bellefontaine from Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge hospital where she was the Chief Development since 2014. At Raken Jordan she worked to secure the Hospitals Beyond Campaign for their building expansion. She also held fundraising positions at Washington University, The YMCA of Greater St. Louis and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. While at Washington University, she co-developed, executed and completed the Campaign for the Danforth University Center. At St. Louis Children’s Hospital, she co-developed and coordinated the Care and Cures Campaign, Time to Play Campaign and worked with key leaders in St. Louis to carry out the Development Board Campaign.
Sherry holds a bachelor of science degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in Workforce Education and Development.
Kyle Cheesborough, Horticulture Supervisor, ISA Certified Arborist
Kyle first developed an affinity for horticulture as a young man in Augusta, GA, helping his grandmother in her garden. His career took him through nursery production, public gardening, plant collection expeditions, and much more.
Kyle attended the University of Georgia, receiving a Bachelor’s in Science of Agriculture, majoring in Horticulture while working for Goodness Grows, a wholesale/retail nursery specializing in unique, old-fashioned shrubs and perennials. He then spent a short time with an annual liner production facility in Mt. Vernon, WA, working in their Research & Development Department before accepting the position of Horticulturist I-Conservatories with the Missouri Botanical Garden. Kyle’s career with MoBot saw a quick maturation of his abilities as a public gardens horticulturist and included a plant collections trip to the Altai Mountains in Siberia.
After the Bellefontaine Cemetery’s arboretum accreditation in 2012, Kyle was hired as the cemetery’s first Horticulturist in early 2013. Under his care, the arboretum has grown in breadth and depth. He was instrumental in the execution of Evergreen Meadow, the cemetery’s dedicated green burial section. In 2016 Kyle became BCA’s Horticulture Supervisor overseeing the arboretum collection, designing themed planting beds, consulting on sustainable burial practices, collaborating on burial lot design and care, directing horticulture staff, as well as keeping his hands in the dirt with regular horticulture maintenance. “I have used my emphasis on conservation and habitat restoration to shape my duties at Bellefontaine, embarking on projects that focus on native plants and those that provide some benefit to local wildlife. The Bellefontaine landscape is one of supreme beauty, and I hope to serve the cemetery in the coming years by developing this urban green oasis into a horticultural destination. “
Cara Crocker, Director of Development
Cara has over 20 years of nonprofit experience in accounting, customer service, and fundraising. She received a BA in Visual Art from Webster University and is a Master’s Candidate in the Arts Management and Leadership program at Webster University.
Cara joined Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum staff August 2014 as the Operations Manager for Development and Customer Relations. While in that role, Ms. Crocker designed and managing data collection processes to help the cemetery analyze its fundraising and customer service impact. In 2016 she became the cemetery’s Director of Annual Giving. “Helping the community discover this incredible historic sanctuary and connecting them to the resources it has to offer is the most rewarding work I’ve ever experienced.”
Tom WIlson, Interim Superintendent
Tom began working at Bellefontaine as a Groundsman in 1985. Over his 33 years at Bellefontaine, Tom has witnessed a seldom used cemetery grow into thriving community resource. He is know among that staff for his attention to details and commitment to doing things right the first time.
Gracie Griffin, Vice President Customer Relations
Mrs. Griffin began in Customer Relations with Bellefontaine Cemetery in September 2012. Previously, Gracie taught social studies in the Parkway School District and later became a yearbook representative for Walsworth Publishing.
As a former educator, Mrs. Griffin’s passion lies in helping people. Through educating on important topics like pre-planning and green burial, providing guidance through genealogy research, and serving families in their time of need, Gracie fulfills this passion at Bellefontaine.
Gracie earned her BA in Education from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
In her spare time, she enjoys relaxing with her family, trivia events, and disc golf.
Richard Lay, Vice President of Customer Relations
Rick has been the Vice-President of Customer Relations since February of 2008. He is a licensed funeral director and an ordained minister. He is passionate about Bellefontaine Cemetery’s history and the stories of its families. He continues to help people plan for their final resting place and memorial.
He is an active member and Past-President of the Cemetery Management Association (CMA) and currently the Vice-President of the Associated Cemeteries of Missouri (ACM).
In his leisure, he enjoys going out for dinner and music with his wife, Tracy.