Staff

Staff

Our dedicated staff members are here to provide support, compassion, and information to help you through your journey of grief and the celebration of your loved one’s life.

Oakwood Family Funeral Home & Crematory

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Martha Praska Funeral Assistant

Martha has been in church work for over thirty years. Among the many duties she has had through those years has been assisting families as they plan for the funeral service of a loved one. Already involved in church work, it felt as if helping families grieve the loss of a loved one was a special ministry that she was called to. She has walked in their shoes many times, after losing two children of her own, her parents, and her husband. None of those are easy times to go through and if she could offer just a little more support and understanding through this time and make it a little more bearable, then that is where she wants to be.

Outside of her career and ministry work, she enjoys sewing, a little bit of crocheting, a little bit of baking (only when she has somewhere to share it - she cannot keep it at her house), and spending time with family and friends. She enjoys reading.

Martha feels as if life is an educational journey and we should never stop learning something new. Along that journey, she loves keeping up with old friends and making new friends.

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Sue Ristow Funeral Assistant

Sue was born and raised in South Minneapolis, the youngest of 7 children. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1976 and she went on to attend the University of Minnesota and Century College. She obtained a degree in Nursing and a second degree in Interior Design.

Sue worked for over 40 years in multiple areas of nursing before she retired. She enjoys watching sports, traveling, gardening, and taking long walks with her fur baby. Sue and her husband, Marv, reside in Woodbury with their new puppy, Mocha. She is excited to be a part of the Oakwood family and serve families during their time of loss.

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Michael Wise Funeral Director

Born and raised in Hastings, MN, Michael Wise graduated from Hastings High school in 1990 before attending his first two years of college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When deciding on a career in funeral service, he transferred to the University of Minnesota where he graduated with a BS degree in Mortuary Science in 1994. After graduation, he worked for a family-owned funeral home in Minneapolis/Edina where he managed their Edina Chapel. It is there that he met his wife, Mary

Michael and his wife Mary have been married since 1998 and have two children, Grace and Griffin. In 2001 Michael & Mary moved back home to Hastings to own and operate a local funeral home. As of August 17, 2018, Michael & his wife, Mary collaboratively joined the team at Oakwood Family Funeral Home & Crematory.

Michael has been very active in his hometown community having served on many boards and volunteer roles. Michael also enjoys spending time with his daughter, Grace, and son, Griffin. Family matters most to Michael & Mary, so any chance to travel with them is time well spent. He also enjoys doing Cross Fit and golfing.

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Jesse Starkson Owner & Funeral Director

Jesse is a 2007 graduate of Faribault Senior High School and a 2010 graduate of the Program of Mortuary Science at the University of Minnesota. While attending the program, Jesse was the President of the Mortuary Science Student Association and was also the recipient of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association Past President Scholarship. He originally began working with a funeral home in Faribault in 2003 and also worked in their Waseca and Janesville funeral homes until relocating to Hastings, where he brought the Caturia Smidt and Wise Funeral Homes together to build a beautiful, state of the art facility together. The brand new collaboration is called Starkson Family Life Celebration Chapel and can host over 400 people for a funeral gathering and reception.

Jesse enjoys being involved in the University of Minnesota Program of Mortuary Science Board of Directors, the Minnesota Funeral Director's Association, hunting, fishing, and boating.

On September 15, 2017, Jesse and his wife, Katie, purchased the former Maple Oaks Funeral Home, and are honored to provide quality funeral service to the Maplewood, Oakdale, and surrounding communities for years to come.  Along with that, they also own their own crematory in Hastings, meaning your loved one never leaves their professional care. "We feel it is important for families to know many other local firms do not own their own crematory, so we are proud to provide this signature service to the families we serve."  Jesse and his wife, Katie,  live in Hastings where they oversee the day-to-day roles for Starkson Family Life Celebration Chapel as well as their additional roles at Oakwood Family Funeral Home & Crematory.

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Katie Starkson Owner & Office Assistant

Katie is a 2007 graduate of Waseca High School. She attended Concordia St. Paul and studied Business Marketing. Katie started working with her husband Jesse at their Waseca Location in 2012 before moving to the Hastings area. 

Katie enjoys being involved with the Rivertown Lion’s Club in Hastings, volunteering at both St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, her card club, rollerblading, and boating. She plays a very integral role at their new facility in Hastings which is where they own and operate the crematory in which Oakwood Family Funeral Home uses for cremations. The new facility is a collaboration between the Caturia Smidt and Wise families to all be under one roof which can host over 400 people for a funeral gathering and reception.

On September 15, 2017, Jesse and Katie purchased the former Maple Oaks Funeral Home, and after months of renovations, reopened to the community. They are honored to provide a quality funeral service to the Maplewood, Oakdale, and surrounding communities for years to come.

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Mary Wise Funeral Assistant

Mary was 18 when she started working in the funeral business at a family-owned funeral home in South Minneapolis. The years she worked at that funeral home, they served over 2,000 families each year. While working there, she gained a great deal of knowledge about the funeral industry. At such a young age, she was exposed to many different situations which helped her to understand the need for personalized service. Mary knows firsthand how every family and every situation is unique.

While working at the funeral home she Michael Wise, and they were married 2 years later. Together, they managed a funeral home in Edina for 2 years. When they decided to start a family, she stayed home with their two children, Grace and Griffin. Michael and Mary moved back to Hastings, MN in 2001 and were the owners of a funeral home in Hastings, until August of 2018 when they sold their funeral home to Jesse & Katie Starkson and joined the Oakwood Family Funeral Home & Crematory team. 


Along with working at the funeral home and being an active participant in her children’s’ busy schedules, Mary loves to volunteer her time in her community. Some of those wonderful opportunities to give back have been the Holiday Assistance Program, the Back to School Program at Hastings Family Service, and Sharing and Caring Hands. Mary currently delivers Meal on Wheels in the local community.

Martha Praska

Funeral Assistant
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Martha has been in church work for over thirty years. Among the many duties she has had through those years has been assisting families as they plan for the funeral service of a loved one. Already involved in church work, it felt as if helping families grieve the loss of a loved one was a special ministry that she was called to. She has walked in their shoes many times, after losing two children of her own, her parents, and her husband. None of those are easy times to go through and if she could offer just a little more support and understanding through this time and make it a little more bearable, then that is where she wants to be.

Outside of her career and ministry work, she enjoys sewing, a little bit of crocheting, a little bit of baking (only when she has somewhere to share it - she cannot keep it at her house), and spending time with family and friends. She enjoys reading.

Martha feels as if life is an educational journey and we should never stop learning something new. Along that journey, she loves keeping up with old friends and making new friends.

Sue Ristow

Funeral Assistant
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Sue was born and raised in South Minneapolis, the youngest of 7 children. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1976 and she went on to attend the University of Minnesota and Century College. She obtained a degree in Nursing and a second degree in Interior Design.

Sue worked for over 40 years in multiple areas of nursing before she retired. She enjoys watching sports, traveling, gardening, and taking long walks with her fur baby. Sue and her husband, Marv, reside in Woodbury with their new puppy, Mocha. She is excited to be a part of the Oakwood family and serve families during their time of loss.

Michael Wise

Funeral Director
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Born and raised in Hastings, MN, Michael Wise graduated from Hastings High school in 1990 before attending his first two years of college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When deciding on a career in funeral service, he transferred to the University of Minnesota where he graduated with a BS degree in Mortuary Science in 1994. After graduation, he worked for a family-owned funeral home in Minneapolis/Edina where he managed their Edina Chapel. It is there that he met his wife, Mary

Michael and his wife Mary have been married since 1998 and have two children, Grace and Griffin. In 2001 Michael & Mary moved back home to Hastings to own and operate a local funeral home. As of August 17, 2018, Michael & his wife, Mary collaboratively joined the team at Oakwood Family Funeral Home & Crematory.

Michael has been very active in his hometown community having served on many boards and volunteer roles. Michael also enjoys spending time with his daughter, Grace, and son, Griffin. Family matters most to Michael & Mary, so any chance to travel with them is time well spent. He also enjoys doing Cross Fit and golfing.

Jesse Starkson

Owner & Funeral Director
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Jesse is a 2007 graduate of Faribault Senior High School and a 2010 graduate of the Program of Mortuary Science at the University of Minnesota. While attending the program, Jesse was the President of the Mortuary Science Student Association and was also the recipient of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association Past President Scholarship. He originally began working with a funeral home in Faribault in 2003 and also worked in their Waseca and Janesville funeral homes until relocating to Hastings, where he brought the Caturia Smidt and Wise Funeral Homes together to build a beautiful, state of the art facility together. The brand new collaboration is called Starkson Family Life Celebration Chapel and can host over 400 people for a funeral gathering and reception.

Jesse enjoys being involved in the University of Minnesota Program of Mortuary Science Board of Directors, the Minnesota Funeral Director's Association, hunting, fishing, and boating.

On September 15, 2017, Jesse and his wife, Katie, purchased the former Maple Oaks Funeral Home, and are honored to provide quality funeral service to the Maplewood, Oakdale, and surrounding communities for years to come.  Along with that, they also own their own crematory in Hastings, meaning your loved one never leaves their professional care. "We feel it is important for families to know many other local firms do not own their own crematory, so we are proud to provide this signature service to the families we serve."  Jesse and his wife, Katie,  live in Hastings where they oversee the day-to-day roles for Starkson Family Life Celebration Chapel as well as their additional roles at Oakwood Family Funeral Home & Crematory.

Katie Starkson

Owner & Office Assistant
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Katie is a 2007 graduate of Waseca High School. She attended Concordia St. Paul and studied Business Marketing. Katie started working with her husband Jesse at their Waseca Location in 2012 before moving to the Hastings area. 

Katie enjoys being involved with the Rivertown Lion’s Club in Hastings, volunteering at both St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, her card club, rollerblading, and boating. She plays a very integral role at their new facility in Hastings which is where they own and operate the crematory in which Oakwood Family Funeral Home uses for cremations. The new facility is a collaboration between the Caturia Smidt and Wise families to all be under one roof which can host over 400 people for a funeral gathering and reception.

On September 15, 2017, Jesse and Katie purchased the former Maple Oaks Funeral Home, and after months of renovations, reopened to the community. They are honored to provide a quality funeral service to the Maplewood, Oakdale, and surrounding communities for years to come.

Mary Wise

Funeral Assistant
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Mary was 18 when she started working in the funeral business at a family-owned funeral home in South Minneapolis. The years she worked at that funeral home, they served over 2,000 families each year. While working there, she gained a great deal of knowledge about the funeral industry. At such a young age, she was exposed to many different situations which helped her to understand the need for personalized service. Mary knows firsthand how every family and every situation is unique.

While working at the funeral home she Michael Wise, and they were married 2 years later. Together, they managed a funeral home in Edina for 2 years. When they decided to start a family, she stayed home with their two children, Grace and Griffin. Michael and Mary moved back to Hastings, MN in 2001 and were the owners of a funeral home in Hastings, until August of 2018 when they sold their funeral home to Jesse & Katie Starkson and joined the Oakwood Family Funeral Home & Crematory team. 


Along with working at the funeral home and being an active participant in her children’s’ busy schedules, Mary loves to volunteer her time in her community. Some of those wonderful opportunities to give back have been the Holiday Assistance Program, the Back to School Program at Hastings Family Service, and Sharing and Caring Hands. Mary currently delivers Meal on Wheels in the local community.

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