Our certified celebrants help create and present a funeral, memorial, or celebration of life
that is unique and personalized. Many families today do not belong to a church or have a minister. Many of these families choose to have a celebration of life service instead of or alongside a traditional sermon. Our celebrants are trained to provide this important service. Our celebrants honor the wishes of the family to deliver either a religious or non-religious service. Families can design a memorial tribute just the way they want.
Certified Celebrant - Family Service Counselor
Julie Freese is one of five staff celebrants at Cedar Memorial. For those families who are more spiritual than religious, Julie helps create a personalized service that focuses on the individual’s life and legacy.
After meeting with family and friends, Julie writes a service that truly reflects the way their loved one lived - tying together memories shared by the family with appropriate poems, readings, and music. Following one of Julie’s celebrant services, attendees are surprised that Julie never personally knew the person memorialized that day. Julie received her BA in English from the University of Iowa and her certification as a celebrant through the Insight Institute. Julie is originally from Iowa City. She and her husband Jeremy, along with sons Tristan and Griffin, and their menagerie of pets live in Cedar Rapids. Julie spends much of her spare time cheering for her boys at their sporting events, exploring the back roads of Iowa and advocating for a better understanding of the American Pit Bull and Staffordshire terrier breeds, and eliminating breed-specific bans.
As a Certified Celebrant, Jim Parton meets with families to plan very personalized services, incorporating stories shared by the family, favorite readings or poems, meaningful thoughts and music to create a one of a kind experience.
Jim’s peaceful demeanor immediately puts families at ease, and his creative skills bring fresh ideas to each of the services he prepares. Jim has a Bachelors degree in Agricultural Science, and holds a California Lifetime Teaching Credential. He has completed several floral certifications, and became a Certified Celebrant through the Insight Institute in 2013. Jim stays involved in the community by supporting local events, political causes and charity events. He is married to his longtime partner and friend, Richard Smith. They have three grown children who live on the West Coast. They love gardening, traveling and exploring Iowa’s beautiful nature and spending time with their dogs and cats at their restored Victorian home.
Certified Celebrant - Human Relations Director
Jim Coyle holds a Doctorate in Counseling and has devoted his life to guiding people toward a better place through service and education. As a Certified Celebrant, Jim lives out his passion for helping Cedar Memorial’s families fulfill their wishes to honor the life and loss of their loved ones.
Jim's entire focus is to listen to the family and present them with the most personal service possible.
He is also the Human Relations Director at Cedar Memorial, focusing on traumatic intervention, staff training and development, and community awareness. Jim has over 30 years of experience counseling people through traumatic loss at the international, national, state, and local level. He and his wife, Lisa are the parents of five children, and Jim enjoys coaching his children's sports teams.
Renée became certified as a celebrant through the Insight Institute in 2017, but her entire career has been devoted to helping others heal – whether physically, spiritually or emotionally.
After graduating from the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing, Renée began her career as a Registered Nurse, working with adolescents struggling with psychiatric or addiction illnesses. While staying home with her young children, Renée’s dedication to helping others drew her to the church, and she served as a licensed pastor for over 17 years in the Solon area, during which time she also practiced as a hospice nurse. All of Renée’s special qualities and experience led her to her work with Cedar Memorial. Her compassion for the grieving and experience with difficult situations lend themselves to Cedar Memorial’s mission of caring. Outside of work, Renée loves babysitting her two handsome grandsons and traveling with her significant other, Bob.