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 and Receptionist for the funeral home.  She is a licensed insurance agent in 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, who is a Corbin native, were married in March, 1993. They have a blended family of eight children and several 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. 

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.