We Are Bluestem
Bluestem is stewarded and operated by the nonprofit Bluestem Community NC, a 501(c)3 registered with the IRS and State of North Carolina (EIN 86-2188559).
We are governed by a Council of Stewards that provides oversight of Bluestem's vision and mission. We follow the conservation standards set by the national nonprofits Conservation Burial Alliance and Green Burial Council.
In 2024, Bluestem will be protected with a conservation easement co-held between two local conservation partners: Eno River Association and Triangle Land Conservancy.
Dedicated to nourishing ecological stewardship, community service,
and spiritual practice in shared fellowship.
Conservation of the land, along with the stewardship of fields, woodlands, water features, native wildlife and habitat, are all privileges that we are granted by nature. At Bluestem we practice solitary and shared experiences of caring for the earth that include silent meditation and reflection, spirited community gatherings, and the support of individuals and families with the sacred act of burial. We envision a shared community space where every person and natural being can find solace and rest at Bluestem.
Conservation – where natural burial supports the permanent protection and restoration of an iconic Piedmont landscape
Community - a collaborative space that honors the memory of those gone before us and provides sacred space for natural burial
Simplicity –a low impact option reducing our impact on the earth, where nature is enough
Integrity – honoring the land and the departed in a memorial landscape
Sustainability – designed for resiliency with an emphasis on ecological and social vitality
Inclusivity – open and accessible to all
Co-founders and Co-directors
Heidi Hannapel is a wife, mother, grandmother and adventurer who has lived for the past 24 years in Durham, North Carolina. Nature is her constant. Heidi treasures the richness of North Carolina's Piedmont—its people, art, history, culture and landscapes – and cares to protect it for future generations. She believes that conservation burial allows families to choose how they wish to remember their loved ones. Where returning to the earth simply and naturally, allows people to become one with the landscape and supports the ongoing restoration of land and of people. Heidi is a founding member of the Conservation Burial Alliance and a cofounder of Bluestem—a shared dream that emerged from meaningful conversations with compassionate friends, while caring for her dying mother. Learn more about Heidi here.
Jeff Masten is a 25-year resident of Durham, moved by the reverence and spirit of the natural places throughout the Triangle. With over 20 years working in the field of conservation, Jeff’s expertise is in building partnerships, and creating and leading cutting-edge conservation projects. Introduced to conservation burial in 2006, Jeff has supported the development of conservation burial projects in North Carolina and throughout the country since then. Jeff’s personal experiences accompanying his father and step-father in their end of life journeys, is at the core of his calling to create Bluestem. Jeff believes nature is where each individual can have their own personal, physical, emotional and tactile experience. “There is something about walking through nature, experiencing its sights, sounds, and smells that can trigger memory and healing from one's grief. Bluestem is that place, where spiritual and natural spaces are invited to coexist.” Jeff is a founding member of the Conservation Burial Alliance and a co-founder of Bluestem. Learn more about Jeff's work building conservation burial projects here.
Sidney Cruze assists Bluestem with community outreach and accompanying individuals with preplanning for burial. A longtime outdoor enthusiast and supporter of conservation in the region, she is well known among the land trust community having served in many roles as a volunteer, board member, and general can-do organizer. Sidney is the former owner of Zola, a beloved Durham gift shop that showcased the work of North Carolina's talented artist community. In her spare time Sidney enjoys hiking with her family, good food with good friends, and painting favorite landscapes.
Our Council of Stewards
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Carl Baumann retired in 2005 after 34 years in business. He spent 6 years in commercial banking and 28 years with the Miller Brewing Company in numerous financial positions. Carl is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor helping small businesses and nonprofits start-up and operate. He teaches business planning courses and seminars for SCORE. Carl is also a member of the UNC School of Social Work Board of Advisors. Carl and his wife Susan have chosen to support Bluestem because of their love for nature and desire to find a burial option that is gentle on the earth. Learn more about Carl here.
Allen Brimer is the pastor of The Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill, a historic congregation founded as a race equity church during the Civil Rights movement and a leader in progressive justice causes. Allen is formerly the Co-founder and Pastor of Farm Church, a congregation that meets on a farm and leverages the resources of the farm to address food insecurity in Durham, North Carolina. Prior to Farm Church, Allen served congregations for twelve years in Kentucky and Indiana. Prior to seminary, Allen was an organic farmer and worked on farms in New Mexico, Tennessee, and Indiana. Allen is an Adjunct Professor in Comparative Religion. Allen farms, barbecues, is a rabid baseball fan and loves to make (and share) pie. Allen has two sons: Eli, in 8th grade, and Ben, who is studying architecture in New Orleans. Allen is a co-founder of Bluestem. Find more on Allen here.
Jennifer Evans is a mother, grandmother, artist and businesswoman. A caregiver by trade and heart, she is the cofounder of Trio Family Services, a local agency dedicated to providing families with caregiving support, companionship and peace of mind. Jennifer specializes in caring for elderly clients with compassion, integrity and kindness. She has more than 10 years of experience in hospice and is a trained death doula. In her spare time, Jennifer sings for her church, at events and burial services. Find more about Jennifer here.
Shenae McPherson is a passionate and powerful advocate for healthy aging in Orange County. She is the administrator for the Volunteer Connect 55+ program and works to develop programming for community members on Master Aging Plans, healthy living opportunities, and connecting people with nature.. Shenae is excited to support green burial in the region as an option for people seeking a simpler form of honoring and remembering. Find Shenae here.
Franziska Rokoske is a nature lover, land conservation enthusiast, and passionate advocate for improving all peoples' experiences towards end of life, and after death. A clinician by background, Franzi spent the past 20 years shaping federal health policy to support patients and families facing serious illness and end of life. Her work has also touched on how we can increase the quality of conversations families have as they navigate complex decisions about their care and death. In Franzi's personal experience: "I was the caregiver for my dying mom, navigating these same issues and growing in my understanding and compassion for how people make their way through this journey towards end of life and beyond. In the past I was driven by the question "what is a good death?" These days I'm passionate about the question "what is good care for family, community, and the earth after death?" Franzi is a hospice volunteer, and is currently completing yoga teacher training, with a focus on restorative yoga that combines mindful movement practices in nature with compassionate meditation. She is excited to contribute her energies to creating Bluestem as a nurturing, healing place for all to engage with the mysteries of our experiences in life. More on Franzi here.
Beth Tillman is an attorney and longtime advocate of green burial. She is a founding partner of Tillman Whichard & Cagle, PLLC where she specializes in estate and gift tax planning and estate administration. Her clients cite her compassionate and thorough attention to their end-of-life questions and planning. Beth was born in Natchez, Mississippi, and has lived in Chapel Hill since 1986. She is an honors graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she served as a Note Editor of the North Carolina Law Review, and also holds a master’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina. In her spare time, Beth writes short stories. Learn more about Beth here.