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Our Staff

We invite you to discover who has made Preble Memory Gardens Funeral Center the ultimate provider of creating healing experiences in the community. This section contains the heritage, vision, and the people behind Robert L. Crooks Funeral Center's reputation of quality, sincerity, and trust.

Our staff is comprised of dedicated and licensed professionals with the experience to answer all your questions regarding our services. Please feel free to contact any of our staff members at any time.

Derek Bales

Owner, Funeral Home and Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer

Derek was raised in Middletown, Ohio, and Graduated in 1992 from Middletown High School and went on to attend Miami University. He moved to Preble County and worked for Hueston Woods State Park until going to work at the Preble County Sheriff’s Office in 1998. He left the Sheriff’s Office in 2008 to attend the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. Derek Graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2009 from CCMS, earning his Bachelor of Science degree.

After completing his apprenticeship, he became a Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer and began working for Roger’s Funeral Home in New Lebanon for 8 years. In 2016 He and Eshelle purchased the old Nein’s Funeral Home in Camden and after growing and gaining some experience, they decided to purchase Preble Memory Gardens Funeral Center and Cemetery in 2021, from Dan and Caralynn Appenzeller. Derek also obtained his Master’s Training Certification to help develop future funeral professionals.

Derek is a member, and Vice President, of the Camden Family Lions Club, a member of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association, National Funeral Directors

Association, and Ohio Cemetery Association. Every now and again Derek enjoys a round of golf, casting a line, or whitewater rafting when he has time. He likes to travel, hike, and relax outdoors, but most of all loves to escape to the Smokey Mountains when he can. He is married to his lovely wife, Eshelle, of 21 years.

Together they have raised their beautiful children, and have two sweet, yet ornery, grandsons who are their world. He is proud to call Camden his home.

Eshelle L. (Knobloch) Bales

Owner, Funeral Home and Cemetery Manager

Eshelle grew up in Camden, Ohio, where she still resides today. She is a 1993 graduate of Preble Shawnee High School. and Montgomery County JVS. After High School and working in the nursing field for four years, she attended the Butler County Peace Officers Training Academy in 1996 and Sinclair’s Corrections Academy in 1997. She worked at the Preble County Sheriff’s Office from 1997 to 2010.

Eshelle married her amazing husband Derek in 2002. If you know her, you know she loves kids. They have a beautiful arrangement of children and two grandsons that they adore.

Working hard managing two Funeral Homes and the Cemetery, she oversees the day-to-day operations, burials, and staff. Around the community, you will find her sitting on multiple boards, serving on committees, and volunteering in any way possible. She is the Director of the Little Shoppe of Sharing located in Camden at the Dover, also a Member of the Camden Family Lions Club, where she serves as treasurer, Vice President of The Common Good of Preble County, and a Member of the Ohio Cemetery Association, as well as being a recent Cohort of Leadership Preble County. Managing a busy schedule, Eshelle doesn’t have much downtime, but when she does, she enjoys traveling with her family and going camping.

April A. Callahan

Ohio Licensed Funeral Director/ Embalmer

A Preble County native and 2007 graduate from Preble Shawnee High School, April grew up on a farm outside of the West Alexandria / Gratis area and spent a lot of her childhood with her grandparents in the Somerville / West Elkton/Camden area. After high school, she attended Wright State University and later transferred to Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, where she graduated with her associate and bachelor’s degree in 2010. Upon completion of her apprenticeship, she became the first female embalmer in Preble County. She worked at Lindloff-Zimmerman Funeral Home for Lysle and JoEllen Lindloff for 8 years until they sold their Funeral Home. When the Lindloffs retired, she came to work with Derek and Eshelle Bales at Bales’ Funeral home in Camden, and once they acquired Preble Memory Gardens in West Alexandria, began working there too. She now happily works between both locations serving the very communities she grew up in. April attended The Pittsburg Institute of Mortuary Science’s Restorative Art Seminar to further be able to develop her craft and better serve her community, along with obtaining her Master’s Certificate to be able to help train and develop future funeral professionals.

April has always loved the arts, be it painting, pottery, sculpting, photography, drawing, woodworking, you name it and she has most likely dabbled in it. In her free time, April enjoys traveling, trying new cuisines, going to festivals, concerts, museums, and binge-watching documentaries. You can often find her loving on her sweet, yet chubby, fat dog, Bela, or spending time with her family, playing games with her friends, or just plotting her next prank on those she holds near and dear to her. We are more than happy to have her empathetic spirit as a vital part of our team, and she often keeps us laughing around here with her jokes. 

Elissa Hurley

Ohio Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer

A Somerville native and 2016 graduate of Talawanda High School, Elissa has an associate degree from Miami University, along with a bachelor’s degree from Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, and obtained her Certified Celebrant Certificate from The Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. She graduated CCMS top of her class Summa Cum Laude in 2022. She served her apprenticeship with us, passed her boards with flying colors, and upon completion became a Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer in 2023. We were happy when she decided to stay with our Funeral Brady Bunch family we have here.

Elissa is an avid animal lover, she enjoys spending time with her family, especially her precious nephews, and hanging out on the family farm in Somerville, Ohio.

When she is able to get away, she enjoys travelling, and loving on her fat cat - named

Monkey, or pestering her boyfriend and going on adventures with him. An all-around family-oriented young lady who brings attention to detail and compassion to every family she meets. We couldn’t be more proud of her, and the hard work and initiative she takes to learn every aspect of the funeral home. She makes a wonderful addition to our team, and we love finding her doodles and quirky notes she leaves us around the office.

Stefanie Price

Cemetery Records and Cemetery Marker Representative

Stefanie was born and raised right here in New Paris, Preble County, OH. She went to National Trail, where she graduated in 1976, She then attended and graduated from Indiana Business College with an associate degree in Secretarial Administration. Stefanie married her husband, Phil, in 1978, and was blessed with two amazing children, two wonderful bonus kids, and seven awesome grandchildren.

Stefanie worked in her family’s business for 32 years before coming to Preble Memory Gardens in 2012. She currently works part-time maintaining Cemetery records and selling cemetery markers. She is also part of the Greater Impact Ministries in Loveland, Ohio, where she worked toward becoming a Greater Impact Certified Coach, and she is a member of Castine Church. In her free time, Stefanie enjoys selling Tupperware, which she has done since 1991, and tending to the family farm. We are more than thankful to have her experience and heart as we continue to serve our families during their difficult times, along with the cakes she bakes for every staff member’s birthday.

Lisa Senesac

Funeral Records and Payroll

Lisa was raised in Richmond, IN, and graduated from Richmond HS. She relocated to Preble County in 2003 with her wonderful husband, Mike, whom she married in 2008. In 2006 Lisa graduated with a BS degree in Business Administration from Indiana University. Lisa has worked in many government, corporate, and small business entities. In 2018 she earned her associate degree in Bookkeeping/Payroll.

Lisa works part-time keeping Funeral Records and doing payroll for Preble Memory Gardens Funeral Center. Mike and Lisa have 3 children, 2 grandchildren, and 2 grand dogs. Lisa is an advocate and lover of dogs, she enjoys crafting, especially sewing and wreath making, boating, and traveling whenever she can.

In her free time, you can catch her at the beach, How ‘bout that? Lisa and her husband, Mike, are members of the Community of Faith Churches where they serve on the “Crew”. We are grateful to have her energetic spirit here.

Lori Lewis

Cemetery Sexton

Raised in Camden, Lori has 5 children and 11 grandchildren. When Lori’s not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family.  She also likes to hike, read books, and go on vacations with her family to the Smokey Mountains.  Lori has been working in the Cemetery since 2006. She enjoys her job at the Cemetery as a Cemetery Sexton caring for families during burials. We couldn’t be more pleased with the dedication, care, and hard work she puts in to make sure the cemetery grounds stay neat and tidy, along with her helpfulness in anything else that may arise. Lori can be found during the week if you need assistance locating a loved one’s grave or finding a place for yourself. 

Wes McGuire

Cemetery Sexton

Wes was raised right here in West Alexandria.  He is a 2005 graduate of Twin Valley South High School.  Wes has worked as a Cemetery Sexton at Preble Memory Gardens since 2015.  In his free time, Wes enjoys tinkering on his motorbike, fishing, writing music, and playing his guitar.  Wes has always been in touch with nature and animals, You can often find him rehabilitating raccoons or just simply caring for all animals and reptiles, though he is a bit fond of his dogs. It takes hard work and great care to provide families with a beautifully kept cemetery to come and be at peace with their loved ones, and we couldn’t appreciate Wes more for everything he does for our cemetery. He can be found during the week if you need assistance locating a loved one’s grave or finding a place for yourself.

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