Meet Our Staff

The staff of Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home all are dedicated to providing the service you need. A short biography accompanies each staff photo.

Please contact any of our staff whenever you feel they may be of help.

Eric Grisell

In the fall of 2001, after meeting and visiting with Alvia and Helen Vankirk, Eric and Dawn Grisell and their three children, Erika, Evan, and Kara, moved to Corbin and purchased the Vankirk Funeral Home. Their purchase has allowed the Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home to remain locally owned and operated. The Grisells are originally from West Virginia where Eric's family has a long tradition in the funeral business. In fact, Eric is the sixth generation of his family to be in the funeral business.

Eric began his career in the funeral business when he was in high school, often working night visitations and funerals on weekends and summers. In 1993, he received his Bachelors of Science in business administration from West Virginia University. He then graduated from the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science in 1994. Followed by his passing the National Board Exam, he was licensed by the State of West Virginia as an Embalmer and Funeral Director.

After moving to Corbin, Eric sat for and passed the Commonwealth of Kentucky's exams for both Funeral Director and Embalmer. Eric is also a licensed life insurance agent with the Commonwealth of Kentucky which allows him to sell life insurance for those wishing to prepay their funeral expenses.

Eric and his family are active members of Grace on the Hill Church in Corbin. Eric is also a member of the Corbin Kiwanis Club, and the Kentucky Funeral Directors Association.

James David Thomas

James David Thomas, the son of the late John F. and Cleo Thomas, is a Corbin native. He graduated from Corbin High School in 1967 and the University of Kentucky in 1971. After returning to Corbin, Jim began his career in funeral service and became a licensed funeral director in 1985.

Jim joined the staff of Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home in April of 2012 bringing more than 40 years experience to his new position.

Jim has served as a church organist over 30 years and is now a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Corbin. Also, he belongs to the Kiwanis Club of Corbin, serving on the cemetery committee that oversees Pine Hill Cemetery.

Jim and his wife Carla Morgan Thomas have been married since 1984.

Joan Wyatt

Joan Wyatt serves as Office Manager, Receptionist and Pre-Need Funeral Counselor for the funeral home. She is a licensed insurance agent for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Hired by Alvia and Helen Vankirk, she began working at the funeral home in 1991.

Born in Marion, Kentucky, she was raised in northeastern Ohio, and graduated from Brunswick High School in 1971 as valedictorian of her class. She moved to Corbin in 1985.

Joan and her second husband Stan were married in March, 1993. Stan is a Corbin native. They have a blended family of eight children and fifteen grandchildren.

Jim Cook

Jim Cook joined the staff of Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home in May, 2004. He is an ordained minister with over 44 years of ministry, serving as pastor, evangelist, police and hospital chaplain, and Christian school administrator. 

Jim is married to the former Bobbie Jean Brown of Gray. They have four children, 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. 

William Curtis Dizney

William Curtis Dizney was born and raised in Corbin, Kentucky. His parents are Allen and Joyce Dizney. After graduating from Corbin High School, he attended Eastern Kentucky University, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree. He spent 19 years in law enforcement. In 2002, Curt added another college degree, a Degree of Associate of Applied Science Funeral Service. Shortly thereafter, he was licensed in Kentucky as a Funeral Director and Embalmer, also passing the National Board. He was invited to join Pi Sigma Eta. The invitation is based on scholastic standing. Following initiation ceremonies into the nationally chartered fraternity, Curt was elected Worthy Scribe. As a teenager until the present, the funeral business has been part of his life for 20 years.

Curt is married to Shelia Dizney and has two sons, Brandon and Zachary. A terrible loss was suffered when oldest son Gabe was killed in an accident. Curt and his family are members of Central Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon. Curt is an active local Mason, Shriner, Corbin Colonel, and Kentucky Colonel. He is also a member of the Corbin High School Hall of Fame by Team. He enjoys baseball and Nascar.

Curt is now home and proudly serving with the caring staff of Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home.

Rita Smith

Rita S. Smith, a resident of Corbin, works as a part-time as a greeter at Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home. She is a well-known and familiar face of the Corbin community. Rita has assisted the families served by the Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home since she began working with us in 1999. In addition, Rita serves as part-time activities coordinator at the Christian Care Communities, Corbin, KY.

Rita is married to Rev. Sam B. Smith, who has served many churches in the tri-state area and is currently an active pastor. They have one son, Doron and wife Sheila and grandchildren, Carissa, Katharine, Melody and Matthew.

Al Loudermilk


Al was raised and lived most of his life in Rockholds, Kentucky and still resides there. He is a 1972 graduate of Whitley County High School. He works part-time at the funeral home as a licensed funeral director and also is a licensed insurance agent and brokers for several different companies.

J. R. Hibbard

(William) J.R. Hibbard is well known in Corbin and surrounding area. We are happy to have J.R. as our personal friend and good-will ambassador here at Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home. He has a remarkable memory and has proven himself to be a valuable source of information with regards to locations of cemeteries, churches and names of pastors.

J.R. was born September 18, 1943 in Knox County. He lives in Keavy with his sister Carol and her family, and is a member of the Lynn Camp Baptist Church. If you need to know when the area churches are having homecoming services, chances are he can tell you exactly when they will be.

We appreciate J.R.'s devotion to our staff and funeral home. Our days are brightened by his presence and our lives are enriched by his friendship.