History & Staff

We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession, dedicated to excellence in service, and have the highest integrity.

Our History

Our History

Back in the 1930’s, what was to become the Nelson-Berna Funeral Home was founded here, in Northwest Arkansas. Originally Nelson Funeral home, there was one guiding principal that is still the hallmark of Nelson-Berna today: to provide extraordinary service, attention to detail, and make each service as unique as the individual it celebrates. At Nelson-Berna Funeral Home, we have been celebrating life for over 75 years.

Our Valued Staff

  • Scott and Paula  Berna

    Scott and Paula Berna, Owners / Funeral Directors

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    A native of Van Buren, Arkansas, Scott began his career in the funeral profession while still in high school by washing cars and answering phones for the Edwards - Fentress Funeral Homes of Van Buren and Fort Smith. Scott went on to obtain his Funeral Directors license from the state of Arkansas in 1985.

    Scott gained valuable experience managing funeral homes and cemeteries throughout the region including Longview, Texas and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1999, Scott was offered the opportunity to move back to Arkansas to manage Nelson’s Funeral Home and Crematory and Fairview Memorial Gardens.

    Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Paula moved to Illinois as a youngster where her parents pastored a church. She later began traveling and singing as a soloist in churches across the United States. It was while singing at her grandfather's funeral in 1987, Paula met her future husband, Scott, who was the funeral director for her grandfather’s services. They were married in 1989.

    Paula feels called to help families through the important process of pre-planning and worked as a prearrangement counselor in Oklahoma City and in Northwest Arkansas. Today, Paula manages the Fairview Memorial Gardens in Fayetteville.

    In 2002, Scott and Paula purchased Nelson’s Funeral Home. In 2010, the Bernas’ purchased Moore’s Chapel Funeral Home, a Fayetteville institution providing funeral planning and services since 1889. Together Scott and Paula feel blessed to offer their focus, empathy and guidance to families as they celebrate and honor their loved ones.

    Scott and Paula have two children, Colby and Calli, and two wonderful grandchildren, Grayson and Charlie. Scott is an active member of The Rotary Club of Fayetteville and serves on the board for the Arkansas Funeral Directors Association. During their free time, Scott and Paula enjoy spending time with family.

  • Colby Berna

    Colby Berna, Funeral Director/Embalmer

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    Scott and Paula Berna’s son Colby joined the family business in 2011 as an apprentice funeral director and embalmer and now serves as a funeral director and embalmer after receiving a Funeral Science Degree from Arkansas State University Mountain Home in 2014.

    Colby grew up in Fayetteville and graduated from Fayetteville High School in 2009. In 2012 he graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. He and his wife Jessica Shepperd live in Fayetteville and have a son, Grayson.

  • Robert Kaelin

    Robert Kaelin, Funeral Director/Embalmer

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    Robert began his career in funeral service at Edwards Funeral Home in Fort Smith in 1988 while in high school. He graduated from the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service and received his Embalmers and Funeral Directors license in Arkansas in 1990.

    Robert has worked for funeral homes throughout Arkansas including Griffin Leggett Healey and Roth in Little Rock, Fentress Mortuary in Fort Smith and currently is the manager at Moore’s Chapel in Fayetteville. Robert and his wife Tammy have one daughter, Emily, and two sons, Hunter and Andrew. He enjoys biking and spending time with his family.

  • Bruce Smithson

    Bruce Smithson, Funeral Director/Embalmer

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    Bruce has worked in funeral service for over 35 years. He was born and raised in Marshall, Arkansas and graduated from the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service in 1986. Bruce has worked with Nelson-Berna for four years.

    He is married to Rose Carol (Cooke) Smithson and has two children, Jamey Smithson and Leslie Fett and six grandchildren. He enjoys spending time with his family and flying his airplane.

  • Elise Pennington

    Elise Pennington, Funeral Director/Embalmer

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    Elise Pennington was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California. She moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2002. She is married and a mother to four, beautiful daughters. After nineteen years in the medical field, she bravely returned to school to embark on a new career.

    She was accepted to the mortuary science program at Arkansas State University in January of 2015 where she completed her associates of funeral science degree graduating cum laude in May of 2016. She joined the team at Nelson-Berna Funeral Home in August of 2016 and has been fulfilling her calling of ministering to families ever since.

  • Casey Warford

    Casey Warford, Funeral Director/Embalmer

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    Casey is a native of Fayetteville and has deep family roots to this area. He is married to Kim for 21 years with whom he has 2 sons, Wesley and Xander and 2 daughters, Whitney and Xyleigh. Casey is Lead Pastor At Harris Baptist Church in Fayetteville and has been a funeral director for 3 years.

  • Mark Bishop

    Mark Bishop, Funeral Director / Embalmer

    Mark has been in funeral service for over 35 years and is a graduate of Dallas Institute of Funeral Service. He moved back to Northwest Arkansas in 2014 after having owned funeral homes in south and central Arkansas.

    He and his wife Marilyn live near West Fork and close to a daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren. He’s a avid hunter in Arkansas and Kansas.

  • Joe Hott

    Joe Hott, Funeral Director / Embalmer

    Joe is a native of Springfield, IL, where he graduated from Springfield High School, then began working at a local funeral home.

    In 1976, he graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Mortuary Science and Funeral Service. He landed in Peoria, IL, married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Lou, and worked for local funeral homes until purchasing the businesses in Princeville, Wyoming and Toulon, Illinois, with his business partner, Bob DeBolt. They moved to Princeville, where they operated Hammitt-Hott Funeral Home.

    In 2017 they made the decision to move to Northwest Arkansas to be near their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. He also decided to come back into funeral service on a part-time basis with Nelson-Berna and Moore’s Chapel.

    They are members of Central United Methodist Church, Fayetteville, where they both sing in the choir. He enjoys spending leisure time with his family, boating, fishing, riding his motorcycle; and has been an Amateur Radio Operator for over 45 years.

    I am honored to be able to work with such a dedicated and respectful group of funeral professionals who are truly committed to the needs of the families we serve.

  • Barbara Robertson

    Barbara Robertson, Office Manager

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    Barbara joined the staff as office manager at Nelson-Berna Funeral Home after having worked in the ophthalmology field for several years.

  • Gracie Berna

    Gracie Berna, Comfort Dog

    Gracie has been an important part of our "staff" for several years. She enjoys being pet and is a great and non-biased listener. She helps bring comfort to the families and guests we serve.