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Meet Our Staff

Our staff provides excellent funeral planning services.

We have years of experience caring for families from all walks of life, cultures and faiths. Our unsurpassed staff and our family provide kind, caring, professional service. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession who are dedicated to excellence in service, adhere to the highest funeral industry standards, and have exceptional integrity. We consistently earn phenomenally high customer satisfaction survey results.

Our licensed, professional staff is here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please call 559-674-8814 anytime. We will even come to you to make arrangements in the comfort of your home.

Prompt, compassionate service is always just a phone call away, where and when you need it.


Dan Whistler

Dan Whistler

President (FDR - 125)

Dan began his lifelong career in funeral service at age 19 as an apprentice at Sullivan-Odell Funeral Home in Hanford.  Following that time he enrolled in the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science, graduating in 1963.  Then, with the advent of the Vietnam War, Dan served his country in the U.S. Army as a surgical technician.  Following his military service, Dan returned to California and to funeral service.  In 1975 he and wife, Virginia (Jay), became partners with Bob and Priscilla Jay, and Richard and Fran Speelmon, at Jay Chapel in Madera.   In 1984 Dan became President of Jay Chapel to continue the Jay Family time honored tradition, “service to families”.  That tradition remains an important part of the Jay Chapel heritage serving the families of Madera County and the Central Valley.

 With more than 50 years in funeral service Dan said, "I have been honored to help the many families through one of life's most difficult times, the loss of a beloved family member. This has also allowed us a way to give back through public service to our community. Our goal has always been to serve all families of the Central Valley of California to the best of our ability.  From simple acts of kindness, to the special care during traumatic times, our guiding principles are to provide the most caring and sincere service. The goal is to always strive to be the best."

 Dan is a past board member of the California Funeral Directors Association, founding member and past president of the Central Valley Funeral Directors Association, past president and board member of Hospice of Madera County, past president and member of the Madera Kiwanis Club, and chairman and member of Madera Municipal Airport Advisory Commission.

 One of Dan’s favorite places to be is up in the air.  He has a passion for flying and is a licensed commercial pilot, owning a twin engine Piper Seneca.  He also enjoys history, so much so, that in 1992 he began the Madera County Historical Calendar, donating the proceeds from the calendar sales to community betterment programs.

 Dan and Virginia have been married over 44 years and have three children, and two grandchildren who live in the valley.



Brian Sisson

Brian Sisson

Managing Partner

Brian is the Managing Partner of Jay Chapel Funeral Directors, on Roberts Avenue in Madera. He believes that to properly serve a family the family needs to know every option available to them, so their loved one’s services can be “Tailor Fit to them” for a proper farewell.

 

Brian has over 20 years of caring in funeral service.  He received his degree in Mortuary Science from Mt. Hood Community College in 1996, and is a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer. He serves as a role model in laying a solid foundation for the business. And, he is known for his personal touch and innovative ideas as an embalmer, and as a restorative artist.

 

Brian is a: Member, National Funeral Directors Association; Board Member, Selective Service System; Mortuary Officer; NDMS, DMORT; Member, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; in additional he has also been involved in various State and community boards and activities, including coaching in little leagues.

 

On the personal side, Brian enjoys outdoor activities, reading and woodworking.  He is married to his lovely wife, Amber, who enjoys creating art with any type of art medium.  They have five children.


Wayne A. Gomes

Wayne A. Gomes

Manager (FDR - 171)

Wayne A. Gomes,  a Madera native and a  life long resident  of the Fresno and Madera areas has served families for 39 years in his career of caring.   A graduate of California State University Fresno,  Wayne  also served in the California Air National Guard for 6 years.  For almost 25 years Wayne served as a funeral director and general manager of Whitehurst Sullivan Burns & Blair Funeral Home in Fresno before joining the staff at Jay Chapel in 2000 as Manager and Vice-President.   Active in numerous community activities, he is a past-president and former board member of the Central California Funeral Directors Association,  he is a past board member of the Cal Iota Alumni Association of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity.  Wayne  is a past 25 year member of the Board of Directors of  the Fresno County Cabrillo Civic Club #10 and served as District Governor for Fresno, Kings and Tulare Counties.  Over the years Wayne has served on several committees of the Catholic Diocese of Fresno and is a member of the Serra Club of the Diocese, as well as being a member of the Italian Catholic Federation, the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic Business and Professional Club.    A friend to many families at 1st Armenian Presbyterian Church, Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church,  St. Paul Armenian Church and at St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Fresno where he has been a  volunteer at the annual Greek Food Festival for more than a decade.     Wayne often remarks that his family gatherings are more like a UN meeting with so many nationalities represented in his families relationships, whether it be Portuguese, Italian, Armenian, Greek, Mexican. Basque or Japanese.  His ties run deep into the fabric of the diverse San Joaquin Valley and that is why so many people look for his guidance when planning a funeral service.


Rhonda Graham

Rhonda Graham

Office Manager & Funeral Director (FDR-4041)

Rhonda joined Jay Chapel in 2011 as the Office Manager and recently received her Funeral Director License.  She feels by assisting the families with the insurance and financial needs helps relieve some of the burden attributed to a funeral.  It is necessary to support the families we serve by performing many of the tasks that are unseen by the public.  This is important work with a short time to complete these tasks.  Born in Germany, but was raised in the Fresno/Clovis area and graduated from Immanuel High School in Reedley.  Rhonda received her Bachelors of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Phoenix.  Rhonda is married to Jeff and together they have one son and one daughter.  Rhonda is a lifelong member of Bethany Church in Fresno. She enjoys volunteering in the church nursery and kitchen.  In her spare time she enjoys cooking, baking and playing with her grandson.  


Les Riffel

Les Riffel

Funeral Director (FDR-1295) & Embalmer (EMB-6324)

Les Riffel was born and raised in Orland, California.  Upon graduating from High school he attended Fresno Pacific College (University) graduating with a degree in Business Administration in 1971.  Les began his career in the funeral service as a summer job during his junior year at FPC.  He then attended California College of Mortuary Science in Los Angeles graduating in 1972.  In 1973 Les added his name to those serving at Jay Chapel in Madera, and has remained dedicated and committed to the families we serve ever since.  Les believes that service in the community helps the community maintain and strengthen core values as a society.  He is a member of the Madera Breakfast Lions Club, Madera County Historical Society, Cornerstone Community Church in Chowchilla, and Secretary Treasurer of the Central Valley Funeral Directors Association.  Having been raised on a farm, working the soil, Les enjoys helping people with their yard and lawn care, as well as caring for his own yard and vegetable garden.  He and his wife, Esther, are blessed with two children, Lisa and Brian, and one granddaughter.



Mark A. Peruch

Mark A. Peruch

Funeral Director (FDR-1202) & Embalmer (EMB-7219)

Mark, is a “Grad” of El Camino High School, class of 1975, in Carmichael, CA.  Following graduation he was called to serve as a Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976 – 1978.  Upon his return Mark continued his education and graduated from Cypress College of Mortuary Science, where he received the Hilgenfeld Award for Funeral Directing Excellence.  Mark began his career as a funeral director at Jay Chapel in 1978, and quickly became a valued part of the community.  In 1980, he met and married his wonderful wife, Janet Brosi, a native of Madera.  They have been blessed with six children (all of whom are graduates of Madera High School) and eighteen grandchildren.  Over the years, Mark has served in various positions with the LDS Church including that of Bishop from 1984 – 1990, and is currently serving as Bishop again.  In the Community, Mark managed the Madera area of the National Little League for 12 years, while serving concurrently as a board member.  He has a passion for service in the Boy Scouts of America.  He has served as a Scoutmaster, Thunderbird District Commissioner, Thunderbird District Chairman, and is currently serving as Chartering Organizational Head of Pack, Troop, Crew and Team 331, Thunderbird District Vice-Chairman, and as an Executive Board Member of the Sequoia Council. He says, “My greatest desire is to help people move through the grief process, what I consider the most difficult period of life following the death of someone close, and help them become an active and viable member of society again.”  



Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith

Funeral Director (FDR-3781) & Embalmer (EMB-9473)

Born and raised in the small mountain town of Springville, CA, Sarah had her heart set on becoming a Funeral Director and helping families through one of life’s most difficult moments after experiencing the passing of her grandfather at the young age of six. The care and kindness that her family received was something she wanted other families to experience during their time of grief. After graduating from Porterville High School in 2009, Sarah went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2012. Sarah then enrolled in the Mortuary Science Program at Cypress College in Cypress, CA and graduated with an Associates of Science Degree in December 2014. Sarah joined the Jay Chapel family in January 2015, and is a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer.  Sarah married her husband Chris in 2015, and they currently reside in Madera Ranchos.  “One of the most important ways for us to help families is to simply just be there. Be there for any questions or concerns families have whether it is during an arrangement, at services, or any time we see families out in the community. We deal with death every day, so let our experience and knowledge help to comfort and guide you through the loss of your loved one. The staff at Jay Chapel has given me more insight and knowledge on funerals than I could have ever imagined. The service at Jay Chapel is unlike any other funeral home I have ever been to.  I am so blessed to be able to work here and thankful that I am able to take what they have taught me and use it to better myself for future families that I have the opportunity to work with. ”


Willie Cortez

Willie Cortez

Advanced Planning Counselor



Elizabeth “Liz” Dunn

Elizabeth “Liz” Dunn

Office Assistant / Records

Elizabeth, “Liz”, has been with Jay Chapel for over 25 years, and is part of the 5th generation of the founding Jay Family to serve here.  She married to her high school sweetheart, James, more than 29 years ago, and together they have 2 children.  Some of her responsibilities include filing State permits and documents required for services, designing personal memorial folders and video tributes for families, as well as creating webcasts of services on JayChapel.com for those who could not attend the services.  She also assists families with family history projects.  Jay Chapel has records dating back to September 1912 and we use those records to help families with birth and death dates, and names of family members.  Liz said, “I remember listening to my grandfather explain to me about the history of how Jay Chapel began, and the compassion and respect my great-great-grandfather had for the citizens of Madera County.  I feel it is very important to continue that tradition today and express our compassion and respect to the families we serve.”  Liz enjoys traveling, decorative tole painting and spending time with family and friends.  One of her favorite pastimes is going up to the family cabin up in Central Camp to unwind and visit with other campers.  


Cyndi Vercellino

Cyndi Vercellino

Office Assistant & Bookkeeper

Cyndi has been with Jay Chapel for 12 years.  Her degree and background is in Accounting.  Some of her responsibilities include filing State permits and documents required for services, maintaining good communication with physicians, hospitals and clergy to help our office run smoothly, as well as designing personal memorial folders and video tributes for families.  She also assists in the book keeping areas at Jay Chapel.  Cyndi is a member of the Madera Historical Society, member of the Madera Arts Council, member of the Madera Quilt Guild, member of P.E.O – chapter V.O. of Madera (Philanthropic Educational Organization, which is a Christian group supporting education for women).  She also enjoys pottery and watercolor painting. 



Rubin Garza

Rubin Garza

Ambassador



Steve Asadoor

Steve Asadoor

Ambassador



Mike Wilhelm

Mike Wilhelm

Ambassador



Patricia Ray

Patricia Ray

Ambassador




Tom Hagopian

Tom Hagopian

Ambassador



Joe Grange

Joe Grange

Ambassador



Frank Benard

Frank Benard

Ambassador



Pat Civiello

Pat Civiello

Ambassador



Phoenica Martinez

Phoenica Martinez

Ambassador



Bill Hill

Bill Hill

Ambassador



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