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Our Staff

Our staff's commitment to you

Our staff is committed to providing support, compassion, information, and direction as needed to all members of our community, their families, and friends who are dealing with loss and grief.

 

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Frank Van Steenhuyse
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Gail Wood Funeral Director
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Rich Farmer
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Bill Ortgiesen
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Brenda McBride

Frank Van Steenhuyse

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Frank Van Steenhuyse has been a licensed Funeral Director since1994 and has been a resident of Benton County for most of his life. He grew up on a farm near Mt. Auburn and graduated from Vinton’s Washington High School in 1967. After graduating from Loras College with a degree in biology, Frank spent two years in the Army and a year in Washington D.C., working for the Food and Drug Administration.

He and his wife, Kathy, moved back to Vinton in 1975 to raise their family. Frank became a Funeral Director later in life after deciding he wanted to be a caregiver to his friends and neighbors in Benton County. To that end, he attended Worsham College of Mortuary Science, graduating at the top of his class in 1994.

Frank is active in community life, being a member of the Vinton Country Club, the Viking/Vikette Booster Club, past president and secretary-treasurer of the Vinton Lions Club, and longtime member and past Director of Vinton Unlimited. Frank worships at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Vinton, where he has held numerous offices, taught religious education and is an active lector and communion distributor and a Knights of Columbus member. Frank and his wife Kathy have three children: Todd, Kate and Mark.

Gail Wood

Funeral Director
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Gail was raised in La Porte City. In 1999, she graduated with honors as a member of Pi Sigma Eta National Morticians’ Honors Fraternity from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago, Illinois. She also graduated cum laude from Upper Iowa University with a BS in Psychology in 2010.

Gail returned to her hometown and completed her internship at The Kearns Service in Waterloo. She became a licensed Iowa funeral director in 2000. Shortly after completing her internship, Gail moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, and worked for Allnutt Funeral Service. While in Colorado, she served on steering committees and a community panel for AARP and was a community advisor for The Compassionate Friends. She returned to Iowa in 2003 and worked for Dunn’s Funeral Home in Des Moines.

Gail accepted a position with Russell Funeral Home in 2006. She is a certified eye enucleator for the Iowa Lion’s Eye Bank, a member of the Iowa Funeral Directors Association, the National Funeral Directors’ Association, Vinton Unlimited, the Mt. Auburn American Legion Auxiliary and First Christian Church in Vinton.
Gail lives in Vinton with her husband, Scott. They enjoy fishing, gardening and traveling.

Rich Farmer

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A Washington High School and University of Northern Iowa graduate, Rich has been a lifelong resident of Benton County, living in Belle Plaine before moving to Vinton at age 7. He worked as a teacher at the Iowa Braille and Sight-Saving School and Vinton-Shellsburg schools for 34 years. Upon his retirement in 2003, Rich began working as a funeral director assistant. 

Rich has been a very active volunteer, participating in City Council, Electric Board, Knights of Columbus and the Palace Theater. Considering himself a local historian, he’s been active with the Vinton Railroad Depot and Museum, Benton County Historical Society and the Benton County Courthouse 100th Anniversary Committee. He loves giving historical tours of Vinton and the cemetery. He is also an active member of St. Mary’s Parish in Vinton.

Rich’s family consists of his wife Nancy, 5 children and 13 grandchildren, with whom he and Nancy love spending time.

Bill Ortgiesen

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After growing up in northern Illinois and graduating from Freeport High School, Bill spent two years in the United States Army. Following this service, he began a career in retail, first for a Midwest shoe store chain. During this twenty-three year association with Leslie Shoes in Illinois and Iowa, he was later assigned to California, where he opened 10 stores, five in the Bay area and five in the San Diego area.


Moving back to the Midwest, he purchased the Florsheim Store in Westdale Mall then opened William’s Shoe Box. When he decided to retire, he closed William’s Shoe Box in Cedar Rapids, ending 50 years of success in the shoe retail business. Years of customer relations have served him well, in addition to all the customers he has had the joy to assist.


Bill is an active member of the Vinton Lions Club, Vinton Country Club and Wildcat Golf Course. He attends St. Mary’s Church in Vinton. He and his wife Margie enjoy community events and getting together with their five children and families.

Brenda McBride

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Brenda was born and raised in Southern California. After graduating high school she moved to Iowa to attend Iowa State University where she met her husband, Jeremy. She started working in the funeral business in 2012 as an office manager in Ames. Jeremy accepted a job in Cedar Rapids in August 2015, after the birth of their son, Ryder, and the couple moved to the Vinton area. Brenda began to work for Van Steenhuyse- Russell Funeral home in December 2015.

She is a proud mother of her son, Ryder, and adores her "zoo" (as her husband calls it) at home which consists of Stella Banana the dog, Rambo & Binx the cats, Jerry the bunny, and Jinx the fish.