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Gaining Recognition

Madison’s Nay honored as
Funeral Director of the Year

He is pictured on the
December cover of national magazine

(December 2014) – Rodney Nay, president and owner of Morgan & Nay Funeral Centre in Madison, Ind., will grace the cover of the December issue of American Funeral Director magazine and headline the spotlight story inside. An icon in the mortuary publishing field for 137 years, the national magazine, which reaches more than 10,000 professionals each month, officially honored Nay Nov. 14 as “Funeral Director of the Year” in a formal ceremony in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Photo provided

Rodney Nay of
Morgan & Nay
Funeral Centre in Madison, Ind., will adorn the cover a national magazine
in December.

“It is a tremendous compliment to successfully compete on a national level for this distinguished honor,” said Nay, who has been in the mortuary profession 33 years, with 28 of those years as a licensed funeral director and 24 years as a co-owner of a funeral home. 
In July, Jane Sefton, the director of pre-planning and family services at Morgan & Nay Funeral Centre, nominated the Jefferson County, Ind., native for the honor and coordinated the documentation and portfolio required for submission. In her nomination letter, Sefton referenced how Nay uses Ben Franklin’s famous quote, “Small leaks can sink a big ship,” to guide his Morgan & Nay operation.
“He personally monitors and polishes all facets, big and small,” Sefton said.
In October, the magazine narrowed the national list of nominees to 10 finalists before selecting the 49-year-old Nay for the coveted title.
According to the magazine’s online website, the judging panel used five criteria to select the winning recipient: community involvement, role model for the funeral service profession, innovative approach to funeral services, outstanding business acumen in sales, marketing and customer service, and compassionate demeanor to families.
The front cover of the December 2014 issue, which Kates-Boylston Publications unveiled at the awards ceremony in Florida, features Nay standing next to the large floral arrangement that adorns the centre’s main lobby with the new north foyer in the background. Morgan & Nay this year added 3,000 square feet to its facility on Demaree Drive to create the new north entrance, a second smaller chapel with an adjacent lounge, an expanded conference and selection room, a new preparation area, three double-garages and extra storage space.
Steve Gilliland, who holds membership in the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame, delivered the keynote address at the Florida conference that honored Nay.
Patti Bartsche, editor of American Funeral Director magazine, heaped praise on the entire Morgan & Nay operation but particularly applauded Nay’s community involvement, innovative services and customer-oriented programs. She called special attention to the “Day Trip” series that Morgan & Nay Funeral Centre initiated nearly a year ago.
Each month, the centre hosts day trips that are open to the public to area attractions as part of it outreach and community relations programs. The 2014 outings have ranged from the Indianapolis Sym-phony with dinner at the Columbia Club to theatre productions at Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, Ind., an Oktoberfest cruise on Belle of Louisville, bluegrass shows at Renfro Valley, Ky., Cincinnati Reds ballgame, Boggstown and Churchill Downs with brunch on Millionaire’s Row. The Dec. 11 finale will include the award-winning production of “A Christmas Carol” at Actors Theatre of Louisville. 
Ever since Morgan & Nay’s inception 18 years ago, Nay significantly goes beyond the norm in community involvement and service. Each Christmas, the centre funds the laying of approximately 800 wreaths at the Indiana Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Madison. Each stone sports a large holiday wreath accented with a festive red bow.
For 18 years, the centre has sponsored a special Christmas program, “Hope and Healing Through the Holidays,” for any family that has lost a loved one in the past 12 months. Every October, the funeral centre hosts a special breakfast to salute and thank area clergymen who serve the centre and its families throughout the year. Besides numerous online resources and printed materials on grieving, the centre also coordinates a grief support group that meets twice a month.
Morgan & Nay annually supports the Jefferson County 4-H fair, either through the purchase of an animal or contribution to the organization’s scholarship fund. The Madison Regatta, Canaan Fall Festival, Chelsea Jubilee, Women’s Health Fair, Neavill’s Grove and area schools all receive a financial boost from Morgan & Nay. When the city of Madison’s K-9 dog, Laykos, died earlier this year from cancer, Nay provided a moving memorial service at no cost to the city.
The centre also occasionally gets a request to project a client’s personality and/or lifestyle in a non-traditional way. Here again, Nay lives up to his “Funeral Director of Year” role. “I don’t like to say no to any request or idea,” Nay said. “Sometimes the time frame or season challenges me and my team and puts us to the test, but we will try everything to make it happen. Every life is precious and every life deserves to be celebrated to reflect the lifestyle and legacy of the deceased.”
Last fall, the honoree and his Morgan & Nay team coordinated a “Cowboy Rides Away” visitation, complete with fresh bales of alfalfa hay, lasso ropes and saddle. For an earlier funeral, Nay transported an entire funeral setup 10 miles away to a scenic, outdoor point overlooking the Ohio River. For another service several years ago, he and his brother, Roger, also a licensed funeral director in Vevay, Ind., created and coordinated a fairytale farewell for a young cancer victim.
Nay got interested in the profession early in life. While still a student at Madison Consolidated High School, the Deputy, Ind., teenager worked at Gans-Andrew Funeral Home in downtown Madison, where he washed cars and registered guests.
Upon graduation from Mid-America College of Funeral Service in 1986 and certification of licenses, Nay returned to Gans-Andrew Funeral Home, but this time in a much different role.  
In 1988, he joined Haskell & Morrison Funeral Home in Vevay. Two years later, he and his brother, who serves as the chief operating officer at Haskell & Morrison Funeral Home in Vevay as well as a board member of Morgan & Nay, purchased the Vevay business, which has been a Switzerland County landmark for more than 140 years.
In 1996, the Nay brothers, along with George Morgan and Keith Webster, sensed the business need for mortuary service on Madison’s emerging hilltop, so they established the Morgan & Nay Funeral Centre.
The new Funeral Director of the Year attributes a lot of his success to Morgan, his former mentor at Gans-Andrew Funeral Home and late colleague at Morgan & Nay Funeral Centre, and the late Howard Buchanan of Haskell & Morrison Funeral Home. “I learned from the best. Neither ever compromised funeral procedure or etiquette, never. There is a proper way to do everything in the funeral profession, and those principles were ingrained in me early,” Nay said. “It may be old school, but there’s a definite way things should be done.”
Despite steering and managing his successful business that often entails multiple funerals per week, Nay too values the importance of helping and promoting the funeral home/director profession. He maintains active membership in the National Funeral Directors Association, attends numerous regional conferences and mentors several college students each year. Nay has served in every position from district director to state vice-president in the Indiana Funeral Directors Association.
The “Funeral Director of the Year” accolade marks the second big milestone for Nay this year.  The NFDA awarded Nay and the Morgan & Nay team “Pursuit of Excellence” distinction at its national convention in Nashville, Tenn., in October. Only 151 funeral homes nationwide, including four in Indiana, received the honor.
“It certainly has been a year to remember. I am most proud as well as grateful to merit the Funeral Director of Year honor,” Nay said. “I will definitely cherish the big awards of 2014, but my heart and commitment though will always be on the home front with the people and communities that I serve and call my neighbors and friends.”  

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