A 501c3 Nonprofit Organization

Larkspur Executive Team


John Christian Phifer, Executive Director, was raised on a farm in West Tennessee where mother nature was introduced to him at birth by his naturalist parents.  Today he holds a deep respect for mother nature and works to educate the public by bridging environmental advocacy and end-of-life care.  John Christian is a licensed funeral director and embalmer, funeral celebrant, end-of-life doula and a home funeral guide. John Christian is a member of the Conservation Burial Alliance, Tennessee Funeral Directors Association and the National Home Funeral Alliance. He received his formal education from John A. Gupton College in Nashville, Tennessee, where he earned a degree in mortuary science and funeral arts. Further studies include home funeral guide training through Final Passages, in Sebastopol, CA and end-of-life doula certification through the Conscious Dying Institute, Boulder, CO. Since his professional career began in 1998, he has worked in small town settings and in large metropolitan funeral homes and cemeteries.  In the fall of 2012, he embarked on a cross-country journey by train, speaking with Americans about their wishes with regards to death, burial, and commemoration. On this trip he learned what options were most important to Americans at the end of life.  You can learn more about our executive director by visiting LifeByLife.com.

Becca Stevens, Board Chair, is an Episcopal priest, social entrepreneur, speaker, and author. Becca serves as chaplain of St. Augustine’s at Vanderbilt University and is the founder of Magdalene, a residential community for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. She serves as executive director of its social enterprise, Thistle Farms. To date, Becca has raised more than $15 million and gained nationwide press coverage for the organizations she supports. Becca was named “Nashvillian of the Year” and “Tennessean of the Year” by the Nashville Scene and The Tennessean respectively. She was recently designated a White House “Champion of Change” and inducted into the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2016 she was named a CNN Hero.  Her newest book is Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling. Becca lives in Nashville, where she and her husband, Grammy-winning song writer Marcus Hummon, raised their three sons.  Her blog is available at beccastevens.org.

Don Welch, Board President, serves as treasurer of St. Augustine’s Chapel, following a 35-year career at Vanderbilt University as an associate dean.  With a joint appointment as professor of law and professor of religion, Don taught courses in the fields of ethics and public policy, and law and religion.  His fifth book, A Guide to Ethics and Public Policy: Finding Our Way, was published in 2014. He is the recipient of the Vanderbilt Law School’s Distinguished Service Award and Baylor University’s Men and Women of Merit Award. His involvement in Larkspur Conservation reconnects him with the journey that brought him to Nashville in 1969 to become a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Tara Armistead, Board Vice President, has a keen love of nature combined with an artist’s eye for detail. She launched her own landscape architecture firm in Nashville in 1987 and currently serves on the board of The Nature Conservancy and the Nashville Civic Design Center. She has worked on the design and preservation of Nashville’s Warner Parks. Tara is guided by an ethic to be a good steward of the land, challenging herself and others, with a keen eye to local sustainability. When designing landscapes, her projects often span family generations, giving a quality of longevity and sustainability to her work. She designs landscapes that deepen the connection between nature and culture by listening, collaborating, and creating.

Marie DuPre  Masterson,Board Secretary,  is an attorney with experience in healthcare and business. After earning her undergraduate degree from UNC- Chapel Hill and a JD and MBA from Vanderbilt , she worked at a law firm and for  various healthcare companies. Her activities in the community grow out of her interest in the youth  and protecting our natural environment.

Robert Davidson, Board Treasurer, co-founded DGLF CPAs & Business Advisors (formerly Davidson Golden & Lundy) in 1987 as an accounting and consulting firm primarily serving the construction industry.  DGLF CPAs merged with Marcum LLP (a New York City based, top-20 international CPA firm) on December 1, 2015.  As planned, Robert retired from the firm in August 2016 to devote his full-time efforts to consulting services for the construction industry.

Robert’s expert services include litigation support, contract claims cost documentation, internal controls & accounting systems design, cost plus contract review, mediation, continuity planning, contractor valuations, merger and acquisition services, strategic planning and other consultation.

He is active in several accounting organizations and also has served on committees and/or boards of various construction organizations, including the AGC, CFMA, TRBA, ABC and ARTBA.  Robert was named one of “Nashville’s Finest CPAs” by the Nashville Post and one of “Nashville’s Accounting Power Leaders” by the Nashville Business Journal.

Robert was appointed by the Governor to four terms (12 years) on the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy and currently serves as Treasurer for U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper (D-Nashville).  Robert serves on the Board of the Ollie Otter Foundation (child car seat safety) and advisory boards for other charitable foundations and civic organizations.  Robert co-founded the Titans Touchdown Club in 2002, successfully raising over $400,000 for the benefit of Harris Hillman School.

Robert is excited to bring his expertise to Larkspur Conservation and looks forward to upholding the mission of Larkspur and creating Tennessee’s first conservation cemetery.

Gina Hancock, Board Member, serves as a conservationist and nonprofit consultant. Gina formerly served as Tennessee State Director and Conservation Strategy Director for Global Lands for The Nature Conservancy. In that position, she oversaw conservation programs across the state, managed multi-million dollar conservation grants, and supervised the entire Tennessee staff. Gina joined The Nature Conservancy in 2000 as director of communications. Prior to joining the Conservancy, she worked in corporate communications and was managing editor for three newspapers. She is a graduate of Murray State University with a B.A. in journalism.

John Stone, Board Member, is an attorney who has lived and worked in Nashville since 1984, where his primary fields of practice are commercial real estate and the representation of privately-owned businesses. He and his wife, Mary, have been actively involved with environmental and conservation groups in Tennessee for the past 25 years. He has served on the boards of the Tennessee Environmental Action Fund and the Tennessee Environmental Council. In 1995, Mayor Phil Bredesen appointed John as one of the initial directors of The Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Solid Waste Region Board and he served as chairman of that board through the end of Mayor Bredesen’s term.  He is also past chair and currently a member of the Board of Directors of Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, Inc.  Mary currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the Harpeth River Watershed Association.  A native Tennessean, Mr. Stone earned his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and his law degree from Emory University. His interest in Larkspur stems from his belief in the environmental and societal benefits natural burial and his commitment to Larkspur’s long-term vision of land conservation for future generations.   

Kim Bailey, Board Member, has been a naturalist at Warner Park Nature Center since 1996 and is an avid hiker, cyclist, photographer and explorer of the natural world. Her powerful childhood connection to nature led to a lifetime commitment to educate others about the beauty and importance of the natural world.  She was named Tennessee Environmental Educator of the year in 2008 by the Tennessee Environmental Education Association for her work with teachers and students of all ages. She co-wrote the Tennessee Environmental Literacy Plan in 2012 with educators from across the state and chaired the Environmental Stewardship Plan for the Middle TN Presbytery in 1992.  After earning an MA from Vanderbilt in Biology with a focus on Ecology, Kim raised 2 sons before joining the nature center staff. Serving on the board of Larkspur is a natural extension of Kim’s life-long connection with the earth and advocacy for its protection.

Father Charles Strobel, Board Member, is excited to bring his passion and expertise to Larkspur Conservation and looks forward to upholding the organization’s mission and creating Tennessee’s first conservation burial ground; Larkspur Conservation at Taylor Hollow.

Charlie is best known as the founder of Room In The Inn.  It all began in the winter of 1985, when he opened the doors of his parish to individuals seeking sanctuary in the church parking lot. This simple act of kindness marked the beginning of Room In The Inn. In December 1986, four congregations committed to sheltering people experiencing homeless through March 1987. By the end of that winter, 31 congregations had joined. Now, Room In The Inn has nearly 200 congregations from a wide variety of traditions and over 7,000 volunteers who shelter almost 1,500 men and women from November 1 through March 31 each season.