Jane Berkow, Former President
Jane is an organization development practitioner who retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2014 after 20 years of service. Prior to that she worked in both the private profit and non-profit sector for 26 years in human resources and organization development. Jane is a master gardener and environmentalist.
As she grows older, Jane finds herself reflecting more and more on “the shape of her absence” after her death. Questions of how she will be remembered and what she can contribute to future generations come to mind. These questions are driven by an enduring value that inspired her entire life; to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
For a very long time, she wanted to be cremated so as not to take up valuable land needed by the living. When she learned about the enormous carbon footprint created by cremation, green burial and conservation burial in particular, made perfect sense. Green burial is an option that allows her -in a small way- to contribute to a healthy source of oxygen and a healthier planet for future generations and for her grandchildren in particular.
Shelley Morhaim, Former Vice President
Shelley is a longtime environmental activist, writer, and filmmaker. Her award-winning documentary “The Next Industrial Revolution” examines the principle that human design should follow the rules of nature. Having participated in green burials of friends and family, Shelley is committed to making it an option for people throughout Maryland. She also serves as Chair of the Maryland State Arts Council.
Robin Hessey, Secretary
Robin retired after 17 years with the University of MD Extension as their Master Gardener Advanced Training Coordinator. Before that she co- owned a graphic design business in Towson. Robin would love to eventually return to the earth naturally: for her physical body to nurture and be part of the cycle of life – without chemicals – simply and easily.
Ann Phillips, Treasurer
Anne is a retired social worker and a former director of hospice volunteers. She has been helping people work through end-of-life issues for many years. Being a long-time environmentalist, Ann was naturally attracted to the green burial movement and, in addition to her work with GBAM, is currently committed to making green burials an option at BeeTree Preserve cemetery.
Karin Weiss, Team Leader
Karin Weiss, formerly known as Karin Brown. Karin is a retired planner who worked for Baltimore County government in various planning related capacities (legislative writer, community planner and historic preservation). She has a lifelong love for nature and would like to be buried in a natural setting – ideally under a tree, near a rambling brook. Karin believes strongly that green burial opportunities should be made available in the greater Baltimore area.
Jennifer Downs, Team Leader
Jennifer Downs is a licensed acupuncturist (and RN) in practice since 1980. She founded Pivot Point Projects in 2009 to provide engaging programs for people over fifty who seek to make sense of their lives in a creative way. She offers a ten session series called Tools and Tasks of the Second Half of Life. In the course of this work she discovered the richness that is possible when we take time to “explore death in service to life.” In the process her interest in family centered death care and conservation and green burial was a natural extension. She is committed to providing resources and educational opportunities about all these topics and grateful to serve on the board of the Green Burial Association of Maryland.
Michael Franch, PhD
Dr. Michael S. Franch is an Ethical Culture leader (clergyman) and affiliate minister at First Unitarian Church (Universalist and Unitarian) of Baltimore. Mike has officiated at numerous graveside services. The most profound are those where family and friends watch the coffin lowered and shovel in a few spades-full of dirt or drop flowers into the grave. It is possible to do this in many Maryland cemeteries, but so far families do not have the option of a “green” burial—a simple burial in natural surroundings. It’s what Mike wants for himself.
Penny has been active in the environmental movement for almost 40 years. She retired in 2010 after working as a Legislative Aide in the Maryland House of Delegates for 16 years. Previous to that she was the co-owner of a graphic design company. She’s also worked in basic science research at the Milton S. Hershey Medical School of the Pennsylvania State University.
After her husband of 40 years died, she was committed to laying him to rest in a way that reflected the values that he had held in life. With the help of family and friends, she was able to have a home funeral and green burial. She passionately believe that every family who would choose that option should have it available to them.
Elizabeth Sexton, Team Leader
When Betsy attended the green burial service of a friend, she became committed to learning more and then to educating others about this gentle, earth-friendly practice.
From 2007-2013 she was an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) instructor and adjunct faculty member in the Continuing Education Program at the Community College of Baltimore County. She is a board member of the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County.