Staff

Our dedicated staff members are here to provide support, compassion, and information to help you through your journey of grief and the celebration of your loved one’s life.

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Matt Thompson Funeral Director/Owner

Matt was born in La Crosse, WI. He lived in Faribault, MN, during most of his childhood and graduated from Faribault Senior High. He went on to attend North Dakota State University at Fargo. While in college, Matt discovered that he wanted to be a funeral director and was lucky enough to get a job living and working at Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home in Fargo. He graduated from NDSU and went on to attend Worsham Mortuary College in Wheeling, IL. Following graduation, Matt moved to Eau Claire, and began his career licensed to practice funeral service. Matt worked for Fuller - Speckien Funeral Home and later Lenmark-Gomsrud-Linn Funeral Homes until 2010. Matt founded Chippewa Valley Cremation Services in 2010 and has since served thousands of people in their greatest time of need. In 2018 he founded the Celebration of Life Center, the newest and most modern funeral home of its kind serving the entire Chippewa Valley. Matt's philosophy in life is quite simple - Surround yourself with good people, surround yourself with positivity and people who are going to challenge you to make you better.

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Dan Layhew Funeral Director/Manager

Dan joined our team in October of 2019. He and his family recently relocated to Chippewa Falls. He graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in 2011 and has served as a Funeral Director in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois and later for several years in Medford, Wisconsin.

Dan served in the United States Air Force and maintained the C-130 Hercules Cargo Aircraft and was part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Dan is married to his wife, Ali Layhew, who is a Operating Room Nurse at Oakleaf Surgical Hospital in Altoona. They have one beautiful daughter, Eira Kay. They attend Jacob’s Well Church.

 

In his spare time, Dan enjoys camping with his family, golfing, boating, snowmobiling and collecting all things Leinenkugel. He is an avid Green Bay Packers fan. He is a member of Rotary International and is an Ambassador with the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce.


"As a funeral director, I strive to provide the best possible service through remembrance and tribute to lives well lived. Being able to achieve a meaningful funeral experience for each family requires careful listening and attention to detail, as well as an understanding of each family's needs. I am honored to serve the families of the Chippewa Valley through funeral service, death care education and other community activities."

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Joelle Lesny Office Manager

Joelle was born and raised in Bloomer, WI. She attended St. Paul’s Catholic School, and graduated from Bloomer High School. She previously worked at the Mayo Clinic Health System - The Maplewood Nursing Home (Now Dove Healthcare) as a CNA for the elderly. She joined the caring team at Chippewa Valley Cremation Servicess & Thompson Funeral Home in 2013. Prior to becoming the office manager, Joelle completed her funeral directors apprenticeship at Chippewa Valley Cremation Services.  Joelle not only runs both of our offices, but she is well versed in the entire funeral & cremation process since she completed the apprenticeship program in 2016.

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Cameron Grogan Funeral Director Apprentice

Cameron grew up in Wausau, WI, graduating from Wausau East high school in 2008. Moved to Eau Claire in the summer of 2012 to continue school at UWEC.  He began his apprenticeship in funeral service in 2018 spending time in Eau Claire and La Crosse. Cam is currently enrolled in the Mortuary Science Program through Arapahoe Community College.

In his free time he enjoys golfing, disc-golfing, darts, hiking, and watching the Atlanta Braves and Falcons.

Funeral service allows him to help families work through and honor the memory of their loved one in a time that can be difficult and confusing.  He looks forward to serving the families of the Chippewa Valley and surrounding areas.

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Arianna Smith Funeral Director Apprentice

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Mary Thompson Directors Assistant

Mary was a long time resident of La Crosse, WI, unitl moving to Eau Claire in 2017. She worked as a full time liturgist in La Crosse at St. Rose Convent until her retirement in March of 2017. Mary has been a church musician and liturgist throughout her professional life. She is a graduate of Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI and Notre Dame University in Indiana. Mary relocated to Eau Claire in 2017 to be closer to her family. Mary has experienced working and caring for individuals and families in planning tasteful and memorable life celebrations, including funerals, for over 40 years. She is proud to be a part of Chippewa Valley Cremation Services and believes in affordable and caring end of life choices for individuals and families.

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David Tackmann Directors Assistant

Dave has lived in the Chippewa Valley for over 40 years. For 33 years he taught health education, 32 of those here in Altoona. Dave and his wife Deb have three grown sons living in Rochester, River Falls and Eleva. They also have three very active grandchildren. In his free time Dave loves the outdoors  fishing, hunting, golf or a good long healthy walk.

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Mary Pengra Office Assistant

Mary has called the Chippewa Valley home since 1978.  She worked ten years as the office manager for a local alarm company, ten years as office coordinator covering 19 counties for the American Heart Association, and for the last 20 years worked at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital as the Volunteer Services Director.  She has a degree in Human Resources Management from Concordia University, which has served her well over the years.

 

For 14 years Mary taught Sunday School, much of it with her husband, creating lifelong cherished memories.  After that she ushered for many years enjoying the opportunity to continue servant leadership in another capacity. 

 

While at Sacred Heart Hospital, Mary supported many community outreach programs such as community food drives, coat drives, and backpack and hygiene kit programs for in-need elementary students.

 

Oren, Mary’s husband of 41+ years, keeps her busy now that she is semi-retired.  Lots of around-the-home projects, gentle neighborhood walks, reading and keeping up on all things sports!  To round out the household now that their two daughters are grown and out of the house, they stay very busy with their Dachshund, Abbie, and three active kitties – Patches, LucyFurr and Purrtle Dove.

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Frankie Thompson Chief Caring Officer

Frankie joined our team during the spring of 2018. He was born in rural Chippewa County and has been raised by Matt Thompson and his family since the age of eight weeks. Frankie is a graduate of Neuman’s K-9 Academy where he was a student in their advanced boot camp training. You can generally find him at either our Bloomer or Altoona locations eager to meet new friends that come through the doors. Frankie is currently working toward becoming a certified therapy dog (as recognized by the American Kennel Club). In his spare time, you can find Frankie basking in the sunlight at home on the patio, playing with his toys, swimming in the lake, playing with his dog cousins Warren & Baxter or sprawled out sleeping in his dog bed.

Matt Thompson

Funeral Director/Owner
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Matt was born in La Crosse, WI. He lived in Faribault, MN, during most of his childhood and graduated from Faribault Senior High. He went on to attend North Dakota State University at Fargo. While in college, Matt discovered that he wanted to be a funeral director and was lucky enough to get a job living and working at Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home in Fargo. He graduated from NDSU and went on to attend Worsham Mortuary College in Wheeling, IL. Following graduation, Matt moved to Eau Claire, and began his career licensed to practice funeral service. Matt worked for Fuller - Speckien Funeral Home and later Lenmark-Gomsrud-Linn Funeral Homes until 2010. Matt founded Chippewa Valley Cremation Services in 2010 and has since served thousands of people in their greatest time of need. In 2018 he founded the Celebration of Life Center, the newest and most modern funeral home of its kind serving the entire Chippewa Valley. Matt's philosophy in life is quite simple - Surround yourself with good people, surround yourself with positivity and people who are going to challenge you to make you better.

Dan Layhew

Funeral Director/Manager
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Dan joined our team in October of 2019. He and his family recently relocated to Chippewa Falls. He graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in 2011 and has served as a Funeral Director in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois and later for several years in Medford, Wisconsin.

Dan served in the United States Air Force and maintained the C-130 Hercules Cargo Aircraft and was part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Dan is married to his wife, Ali Layhew, who is a Operating Room Nurse at Oakleaf Surgical Hospital in Altoona. They have one beautiful daughter, Eira Kay. They attend Jacob’s Well Church.

 

In his spare time, Dan enjoys camping with his family, golfing, boating, snowmobiling and collecting all things Leinenkugel. He is an avid Green Bay Packers fan. He is a member of Rotary International and is an Ambassador with the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce.


"As a funeral director, I strive to provide the best possible service through remembrance and tribute to lives well lived. Being able to achieve a meaningful funeral experience for each family requires careful listening and attention to detail, as well as an understanding of each family's needs. I am honored to serve the families of the Chippewa Valley through funeral service, death care education and other community activities."

Joelle Lesny

Office Manager
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Joelle was born and raised in Bloomer, WI. She attended St. Paul’s Catholic School, and graduated from Bloomer High School. She previously worked at the Mayo Clinic Health System - The Maplewood Nursing Home (Now Dove Healthcare) as a CNA for the elderly. She joined the caring team at Chippewa Valley Cremation Servicess & Thompson Funeral Home in 2013. Prior to becoming the office manager, Joelle completed her funeral directors apprenticeship at Chippewa Valley Cremation Services.  Joelle not only runs both of our offices, but she is well versed in the entire funeral & cremation process since she completed the apprenticeship program in 2016.

Cameron Grogan

Funeral Director Apprentice
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Cameron grew up in Wausau, WI, graduating from Wausau East high school in 2008. Moved to Eau Claire in the summer of 2012 to continue school at UWEC.  He began his apprenticeship in funeral service in 2018 spending time in Eau Claire and La Crosse. Cam is currently enrolled in the Mortuary Science Program through Arapahoe Community College.

In his free time he enjoys golfing, disc-golfing, darts, hiking, and watching the Atlanta Braves and Falcons.

Funeral service allows him to help families work through and honor the memory of their loved one in a time that can be difficult and confusing.  He looks forward to serving the families of the Chippewa Valley and surrounding areas.

Arianna Smith

Funeral Director Apprentice
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Mary Thompson

Directors Assistant
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Mary was a long time resident of La Crosse, WI, unitl moving to Eau Claire in 2017. She worked as a full time liturgist in La Crosse at St. Rose Convent until her retirement in March of 2017. Mary has been a church musician and liturgist throughout her professional life. She is a graduate of Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI and Notre Dame University in Indiana. Mary relocated to Eau Claire in 2017 to be closer to her family. Mary has experienced working and caring for individuals and families in planning tasteful and memorable life celebrations, including funerals, for over 40 years. She is proud to be a part of Chippewa Valley Cremation Services and believes in affordable and caring end of life choices for individuals and families.

David Tackmann

Directors Assistant
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Dave has lived in the Chippewa Valley for over 40 years. For 33 years he taught health education, 32 of those here in Altoona. Dave and his wife Deb have three grown sons living in Rochester, River Falls and Eleva. They also have three very active grandchildren. In his free time Dave loves the outdoors  fishing, hunting, golf or a good long healthy walk.

Mary Pengra

Office Assistant
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Mary has called the Chippewa Valley home since 1978.  She worked ten years as the office manager for a local alarm company, ten years as office coordinator covering 19 counties for the American Heart Association, and for the last 20 years worked at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital as the Volunteer Services Director.  She has a degree in Human Resources Management from Concordia University, which has served her well over the years.

 

For 14 years Mary taught Sunday School, much of it with her husband, creating lifelong cherished memories.  After that she ushered for many years enjoying the opportunity to continue servant leadership in another capacity. 

 

While at Sacred Heart Hospital, Mary supported many community outreach programs such as community food drives, coat drives, and backpack and hygiene kit programs for in-need elementary students.

 

Oren, Mary’s husband of 41+ years, keeps her busy now that she is semi-retired.  Lots of around-the-home projects, gentle neighborhood walks, reading and keeping up on all things sports!  To round out the household now that their two daughters are grown and out of the house, they stay very busy with their Dachshund, Abbie, and three active kitties – Patches, LucyFurr and Purrtle Dove.

Frankie Thompson

Chief Caring Officer
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Frankie joined our team during the spring of 2018. He was born in rural Chippewa County and has been raised by Matt Thompson and his family since the age of eight weeks. Frankie is a graduate of Neuman’s K-9 Academy where he was a student in their advanced boot camp training. You can generally find him at either our Bloomer or Altoona locations eager to meet new friends that come through the doors. Frankie is currently working toward becoming a certified therapy dog (as recognized by the American Kennel Club). In his spare time, you can find Frankie basking in the sunlight at home on the patio, playing with his toys, swimming in the lake, playing with his dog cousins Warren & Baxter or sprawled out sleeping in his dog bed.