Behind Carolina Memorial Sanctuary is a team of dedicated individuals who do this work out of love and passion with the desire to be of service to their community. Regardless of their individual roles, everyone on the Sanctuary team assists with burials and the support of guests. Below you can learn more about each of the Sanctuary’s dedicated staff and the path that led them to Carolina Memorial Sanctuary.
Caroline Yongue – Founder & Director
In 1995, Caroline began working towards a greater understanding of the death and dying process when she discovered her own fears around the transition and journey each of us will take. That was over 20 years ago and since that time, as a Death Care Midwife and Doula for the Dying, Caroline has been offering education and assistance through the Center for End of Life Transitions. In 1999, Caroline met Billy and Kimberley Campbell, founders of the first conservation burial ground in the United States: Ramsey Creek Memorial Preserve. That meeting sparked the dream of offering this type of burial in the Asheville area. Many years and many conversations later, Carolina Memorial Sanctuary became a reality when we purchased our land in December of 2015. Aside from death care assistance, Caroline does have other interests: Her Buddhist spiritual practice, Jasper and Boysenberry – her furry family, using her hands to create art, and baking. When asked why she has chosen to follow this path: It’s not often that a person has the opportunity to create a community sanctuary which allows the meeting of open hearts. There is nothing else I’d rather do. Death will touch each of us. No one will be left out. It is a gift and honor to be part of this transition.
Alison Wisely – Sanctuary Operations Manager
Alison began her interest in death work and service at a young age. She has volunteered in and worked with several funeral homes and hospice facilities across North Carolina. Alison holds a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Anthropology from Western Carolina University. In 2018, Alison completed her Home Funeral Guide training through the Center for End of Life Transitions and is currently working towards her death doula certification as well as her Certificate of Proficiency in Green Burial Cemetery Operations through the Green Burial Council. She is also a mother of two kiddos, a trained birth doula, and an avid beekeeper. Her goal is to guide and educate while holding space for all moments of life’s transitions. When not supporting folks, Alison enjoys reading all kinds of books and a great cup of coffee.
Michele Skeele – Administrative + Burial Support
Michele’s role at the Sanctuary is a melding of her primary interests and experiences. With a B.S. in Biology, years of administrative experience in other organizations, twenty years of studying end of life care, and serving as a Home Funeral Guide and End of Life Doula – Michele is able to inhabit a role at the Sanctuary that satisfies her love of nature and commitment to a good death. Michele finds balance playing in the woods or on the water, hiking, canoeing and foraging for wild mushrooms, making music with voice or flutes, and traveling pretty much anywhere that offers new vistas and experiences. When asked why she has chosen to follow this path: The opportunity to be a part of this essential move towards family centered death rituals and green burial practices is a dream come true. I’ve literally waited my whole life for this job!
Karly Michel – Administrative Assistant
Karly Michel is thrilled to be part of the Sanctuary team and offer administrative and onsite support for guests. She hails from Miami, FL, and has lived and traveled coast to coast. In her former life she was a theater artist, herbalist, and now, end-of-life planner and good death advocate. She is most inspired to promote candid and open conversations about death and provide as many resources for those who feel overwhelmed, scared and or alone along their end-of-life journey. When not at the Sanctuary, you’ll find Karly exploring a waterfall, relaxing in the garden, or making herbal remedies for her home apothecary.
Will Bahr – Sanctuary Steward
When he tells people he digs graves for a living, Will usually gets one of two responses: shock or fascination, manifesting in some cocktail of ‘Yikes’ or ‘Cool!’ or ‘Why?’ This reaction perfectly encapsulates our relationship with death: we are at once intrigued and repulsed by it, like all things taboo. It was just this complex dynamic— as well as some good old-fashioned buttering up by his buddy and predecessor, Ben Gordon— that drew Will to his current position as a CMS Land Steward. He wanted to further his concrete work in conservation, but also that more abstract work at which we’re all toiling, whether we remember we’re on the clock or not: the foreknowledge of our death, and how exactly to handle it. Through groundskeeping, facilitation of experience for the bereaved and, of course, gravedigging, Will’s relationship with the dead continues to evolve. It is and will be a work in progress, right up until that ultimate deadline. Will attended Warren Wilson College in nearby Swannanoa, and is also a freelance writer. You can find his scribblings here and here.
Jasper – Ambassador of Goodwill & Sanctuary Greeter
Our beloved Jasper died on March 22, 2022. You can read a tribute to him here, written by his companion and our director, Caroline Yongue.