Karmin Meade knew from an early age that she wanted to care for others. It started with her “Dzia-Dzia,” meaning “grandfather” in Polish. “He was severely disabled due to diabetes. I learned compassion and empathy from him,” says Meade. Although blind and unable to walk, he taught her how to cook and polka, and instilled in her a deep respect for our military and a love of all sports—especially Notre Dame football. “We were best friends,” she says.
Her grandfather died when she was 13, and she remembers his funeral vividly. “It was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking. I remember being amazed by all the people who came and the stories told about him. I was comforted knowing he was loved and admired by so many,” says Meade.
It is fitting that she now finds herself working with families in need. Meade started her career at Notre Dame in 2004 as administrative assistant to David Harr, associate vice president for Auxiliary Operations. Oversight of Cedar Grove Cemetery was one of Harr’s responsibilities, and Meade quickly learned the administrative duties that came with the job, such as record keeping and preparation of burial deeds.
About that time, the decision was made to allow Notre Dame alumni and members of Sacred Heart Parish to purchase burial space in Cedar Grove, which previously had been available exclusively to faculty, staff and retirees.
Meade was in on the ground floor, working with Harr and Leon Glon, manager and sexton of Cedar Grove Cemetery, in taking the “Coming Home” initiative from basic concept to construction of the first two mausolea. While doing the final reviews of the business plan, it became obvious that a dedicated staff person was needed for “Coming Home.”
“After talking on the phone with countless alumni and reading letters from people who wanted to be buried at Cedar Grove, I couldn’t imagine anyone doing this job but me,” says Meade. “I am finally able to pay forward the kindness my grandfather’s family and friends extended to me at his funeral and beyond.”
As services coordinator of Cedar Grove Cemetery, Meade often works with families, prior to the time of need, to plan burial for themselves or that of a loved one. She also works with families at the time of death, and notices a significant difference between those services planned prior to need and those that are not. “So much stress is alleviated. For the loved ones left behind, the healing can begin,” said Meade. “I have enjoyed everyone I have served, approximately 450 families.”
According to Meade, many families send her birthday and Christmas cards, or stop by her office when they are on campus. “People say they are able to talk to me in ways they can’t talk to their own family members.” For Meade, this is not a job. “It is a passion shaped by our ministry here at Notre Dame.”
Contact Karmin Meade at firstname.lastname@example.org or 631-5660.