Our Blog


Sarah Cannon

Sarah joined State of Grace in October 2020.

Her background as a Registered Nurse, working at Hospice ended in 2016 when she left to spend more time with her 4 children and tending to her lifestyle block in Karekare, while she contemplated what was next for her.In 2019 Sarah had a dear friend die suddenly in an accident and was integral to the family to navigate this huge loss, working closely with State of Grace, she realised what her next step was to be.

Sarah has a great passion for working with families, and ensuring their loved ones get the best possible send off, she shows great empathy and kindness to everyone. She feels that working with families at this time is both a privilege and an honour.

Sarah has attended extensive workshops on grief, and counselling, during her time as a Registered Nurse at Mercy Hospice.

Sarah is married to Eyan, they have 4 school age children, who keep them constantly busy!

Sarah immerses herself in the raw west coast as frequently as time allows, and enjoys yoga, gardening, cooking, hand crafts and a good book.


Ian Sugden

Car Valet & Cleaner

Ian joined State of Grace in Feb 2015 and works every Thursday. Besides being diligent he has a great eye for detail and we can rely on him to keep our vehicles, office and grounds in tip top condition.

Ian keeps busy with 2 other jobs – he is a support worker helping persons with a variety of disabilities to attain more independence in their lives.

He also teaches English to ESOL students in an evening class & does private tutoring.

These jobs really suit Ian as he is patient, kind, and very friendly.

As well as keeping physically fit  grooming our cars, Ian keeps in shape running and hiking and when time allows he enjoys mellowing out with a great book.

He lives with his partner Anne and has a teenage son attending Auckland Grammar School.



Sue joined our team in April 2015 – she is in charge of all of the administration, accounts, and also is a source of comfort for any families who pop by unexpectedly – a cup of tea and a sympathetic ear…
Sue is a very kind, loving, empathetic, patient, creative, caring and trustworthy person with a wicked sense of humour and everyone loves her. She is modest but we can tell you that she is a very talented artist, and can turn her hand to any crafts. She is a mum to Steph and Ben and a loving nana to Jackson. Sue and her husband – Kona – live in a subtropical paradise in Mt Albert and are building a second home in Niue for their retirement.



Lynnette joined State of Grace in 2017, working at our beautiful cottage in Albany. As well as attending to all the administration and accounts duties, she steps in to assist the funeral directors when required.  She ensures our cottage is always looking its best, making it a comfortable and comforting space for our families.  Her co-ordination and multi-tasking abilities play a vital part in the smooth-running of operations at our North branch.  She can make a lovely cup of tea and pass round the home baking and the tissues at the same time.

Lynnette lives with her husband on the North Shore, having moved from Christchurch. Her son is based in Sydney doing a post graduate degree.

Lynnette is warm, kind and easily approachable. Besides volunteering for several organisations including Bellyful and Days for Girls, she keeps herself busy by quilting, walking, doing Pilates and reading. She has been called an angel on more than one occasion.


Natasha Plunkett

Natasha has a background in Project Management and Operational Management through her previous roles at Hospice West Auckland and Auckland Transport.

Although enjoying these roles she always thought she would be a great Funeral director ….and how correct she was!

She has personally lost people close to her and wanted to help those experiencing grief in a more positive light, through the caring touch State of Grace brings to each of the families it works with.

Since starting with State of Grace she has shown herself to be passionate and kind, she offers an authentic, intuitive and professional touch to her role.

Natasha feels that working so closely with families at such a time of need is very humbling and special.

Along with all our ladies Natasha has done workshops through the  Grief Center which has provided her with a greater understanding of the grief process.

Natasha is married to David and they have two boys.  – she loves being a rugby mum!

She leads an active life – you may spot her jogging around West Auckland.


Michelle Page

Michelle joined us at State of Grace in March 2016.

Her background was previously in Media and Marketing and although she was passionate about her role within this industry she felt a need for a change and a chance to use her life experience to help others. She had been to previous funerals that State of Grace had been involved in and loved the way we worked with the families and so put pen to paper to introduce herself to us – at just the right time.

Michelle has compassion when working with families who are dealing with great loss. She steps in to assist them with deciding how they would like to honour and say goodbye to their loved one.

She is authentic, compassionate, kind, intuitive, professional and positive. Michelle will go out of her way to help our families.

Michelle feels that working so closely with families is a true honour and feels very fulfilled by this.

Michelle is married to Tom and they have two grown children. Her eldest son has started his acting career and her daughter has completed her degree at Victoria University – she is very proud of them both!


Deb Cairns

A trained sign language interpreter, marriage celebrant and social worker, Deb Cairns also has a strong entrepreneurial background having founded Phoenix Organics, together with husband Chris.

Her interest in home or family-directed funerals came about as the result of helping lay out a dear friend who died several years ago from cancer. “She made her wishes for after death care very plain and it was a privilege to be involved in this last act of love. I was moved by the simplicity, beauty and healing benefits of having a loved one at home for a few days after death,” says Deb.

This intensely personal experience encouraged Deb to research home-based funerals and after death care. In 2005, Deb arranged for Jerrigrace Lyons of leading United States home funeral organisation, Final Passages, to conduct a seminar and workshop here in New Zealand.

“That workshop was incredibly empowering. Together with my business partner Fran, we realised we had this wonderful opportunity to provide families with support, guidance and home-based alternatives to current funeral practices. State of Grace is the result of that vision,” says Deb.

Deb lives in Grey Lynn and is happily married to Chris. They have four wonderful children and two much loved grandchildren.

Deb set up and runs 2 branches of the volunteer group “Days for Girls”. 

Deb cares about people and this is evident in all she does.


Fran Mitchell

Mum to  three gorgeous girls, Fran Mitchell enjoyed an early career as a legal secretary, followed by training in architectural draughting. Fran enjoys Auckland’s West Coast and is a Volunteer Lifeguard at United North Piha.

In 2003 when her sister was terminally ill, Fran’s life took a dramatic turn as she decided to care for her at home.

“My sister’s illness and subsequent death really was a life-altering event. It caused me to seriously question traditional death care and funerals and consider whether there were any realistic alternatives. I just wasn’t comfortable with what was on offer, and felt I should be able to honour my sister in a far more personal, meaningful way,” Fran says.

Fran participated in the Jerrigrace Lyons’ Home Funeral course organised by Deb Cairns in April 2005. The move to creating State Of Grace was a natural progression.

“It is a privilege to be able to support grieving families to care for their loved ones in such a respectful and loving way,” she says.

Fran has completed her Certificate in Grief Counselling which has provided her with a more thorough understanding of the grief process.