History & Staff
We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession, dedicated to excellence in service, and have the highest integrity.
Hillcrest Memorial Gardens was established over 50 years ago by our founders Cecil and Helen Theus on 26 acres of countryside boasting Florida native hardwoods and foliage. We continue to serve our community with the same dedication and compassion, making our cemetery one of the finest in the region.
The cemetery's manicured gardens offer a place of peace and reflection for family members and friends to honor their loved ones. We want every guest to experience the warmth and beauty of our gardens. You will find flowers in bloom when you go down our winding drives. The live oaks are a source of great solace that allows our families to honor and pay tribute to their loved ones in the tranquil surroundings of our gardens.
In addition to our beautiful statuary and Private Family Estates, Hillcrest Memorial Gardens also boasts of the area's only Jewish Garden. The Garden of David’s main highlight is a shrine which features stones from the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in remembrance of those lost during World War II.
We invite you to visit us and see the many options that we provide throughout our cemetery. Our funeral directors can provide informative seminars for large and small groups as well as private consultations on request.
Who We Are
In a nutshell? Experience, professionalism, compassion, and empathy.
General ManagerRead Bio
William C. Ward, III was born in Rochester, New York and is married to his wife Dr. Marnie L. Ward. They have three children, Diana M. Ward, William C. Ward, IV and Grace L. Ward. Bill has been in the funeral industry since 1991 and when asked why he is in this industry Bill states “Since I was a young man I have always had a calling to help those who were truly in need of help. The funeral service has truly offered me the opportunity to help families who are truly in need of help.” When asked what Bill likes about his job he stated “Helping families through the difficult process of the funeral arrangement, funeral service and committal service. Thereby allowing them the opportunity to have a service that meets and exceeds their request.” When Bill is not working his favorite things to do are, Helping his children with school work, 4H projects and working on his Lionel Train layout. When asked what the best advice was that he had ever received Bill said “Always treat a client family as though they were your own family and you will never be wrong! Given by the late Orlando J. Fero, Jr. who was the owner of Fero Funeral Homes of Beverly Hills and Dunnellon, Florida.”
Vice PresidentRead Bio
Jim is a native Floridian, who was born and raised in the Daytona Beach area. For over 12 years He and his wife Bev have resided in Leesburg, Florida with their two sons, Hunter and Carter. His children attend Lake Sumter State College and Adventure Christian Academy in Tavares where Jim’s wife Bev serves the school as Librarian, and personal assistant to the Principal. He and his family are members of Lake Eustis Christian Church. Jim is an avid fisherman and has traveled from Alaska to Maine and all points in between in order to wet a line.
He is a graduate of Mainland Senior High School, and he attended Daytona State College, Daytona Beach, Florida. Jim went on to graduate from Gupton Jones College in Atlanta, Georgia with a degree in Mortuary Science. In 1991 Jim became the third generation of his family to hold funeral director and embalmer licenses in the state of Florida.
He has a long history of community involvement through his church affiliations and he has been a member of Rotary International for over 20 years. Jim has held many board positions in his Rotary Clubs and served as Secretary and President over the years. He has the distinction of being a multiple “Paul Harris Fellow.” Additionally, Jim’s service to the Lake County community has allowed him to serve on the boards of the United Way, and the Salvation Army.
Professionally Jim was a founding member of the Florida Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association and through the years served as a member of the board, Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President and eventually two terms as President of the association which represents Florida funeral professionals’ legislatively and coordinates continuing education venues, regional meetings and conventions each year. Most importantly the association fosters broad cooperation between death care professionals around the state and around the country. Jim currently serves as a Board Member of the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association.
Brenda J. Ervin
Office ManagerRead Bio
Brenda was born in Harford County, Maryland and enlisted in the US Army after graduating High School. She served for 6 years with the 1st Cavalry Division and in Germany where I worked with NATO. After her separation she moved to NYC where she worked for 11 years in corporate retail, followed by dotcom, an executive search firm that specialized in higher tech and start up technologies. After working at dotcom she worked for a multi-published weight loss therapist.
Brenda moved to Florida in April of 2018 and brought 30 years of administrative, problem solving, customer service and retention skills to Hillcrest Memorial Gardens where she hopes to be a positive asset to the team. She has one daughter and one grandson who still live in NYC. In her free time she enjoys gardening and sticking her nose in a book.
Family Service AdvisorRead Bio
Matthew was born in Massachusetts and lived there till he was 16. He moved to Kent, Ohio and attended Kent State University were he studied radio and TV production. In 1996 Matthew was offered an internship with Walt Disney World where he met his wife Chrisitina during The World Famous Jungle Cruise. They've been married since 2000 and is the proud parent of Michael who was born in 2014.
Mathew has lived in the Lake county area since 2002. He is a New England sports fanatic and supports all of the teams in that area. In his free time Mathew enjoys running and training for his next running race. In addition to running Mathew enjoys visiting Disney themed parks with his family.
Mathew's helped families pre-plan their future since 2016.
David Kenneth Crane
Community Service AdvisorRead Bio
Born and raised in Mobile, AL. Kenneth is married to Rebecca Crane. He was home-schooled from kindergarten through 12th grade. Kenneth graduated from Bishop State Community College with an Associate's Degree in Business Management and Supervision Technology.
Kenneth has been in the funeral Industry since 2016 and when asked why he is in the business Kenneth states "I have always enjoyed helping people. Whether it is helping them set up a new type of technology, or helping them set up their final arrangements, helping someone understand something that would usually be difficult and making it easier provides me great joy."
When asked what the best advice was he had ever received Kenneth said "Every single person you come into contact with has their own story. They are meeting us during one of the worst times of their lives so it is our duty to help them out in any way we can to make this difficult time easier."
When Kenneth is not working his favorite things to do are: watching movies, playing games with my family, riding a bike, and spending time with his wife.