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

Brown-Forward Funeral Service, we have served Cleveland, Ohio and surrounding communities since the early 1800's. We are recognized as the oldest continuing funeral home in the state of Ohio.

    Almost two centuries ago the funeral home started as D.W. Duty, Cabinet Makers, was succeeded as J.H. Brown, then J. H. Brown-Son, & Forward, and, currently is known as Brown-Forward, Inc.

     Throughout the years, Brown-Forward, Inc. has remained a stable icon of caring and compassion for those in need. In our 186 years of recorded service, we have had five locations and only four different owners.

Our Valued Staff

  • Robert L. Forward

    Robert L. Forward President, Funeral Director and Embalmer

    Robb has been a part of the working staff at Brown-Forward since he was 14 years old. He graduated from Norwich University and The Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. Robb served in the US Army Infantry in Vietnam, was formerly a Lay reader and choir member at Christ Episcopal Church, and currently a member of Plymouth Church of Shaker Heights, UCC, where he has been active in the youth groups and the Stephen Minister program. Robb is currently a Commissioned Minister for the UCC serving in the area of Correctional Facilities. He was Past President of the Shaker Schools Foundation. He was also a former Ohio State High School and NCAA baseball and softball official.

  • Judith M.  Forward

    Judith M. Forward Executive Vice President and Funeral Director


    Judy has been with Brown-Forward just about all her life! Judy is active with Fairmount Presbyterian Church as an elder and past Deacon, Stephen Minister, Chair of the Memorial Committee and usher. Her civic interest include Rotary International, The Hudson City Cemetery Board of Directors, the Western Reserve Academy Pioneer Women and, formerly, Zonta International.

  • Donald B.  Willis

    Donald B. Willis General Manager, Master Embalmer

    Donald B. Willis began his career in funeral service at the age of sixteen. He joined the staff at Brown-Forward in 1965 following graduation from the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. A four-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Donald is a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, member of Acacia Masonic Lodge #651, Lyndhurst and a Royal Arch Mason, Lodge #152, Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

    An accomplished bagpiper, Donald is quite active in all things Scottish. He is the ritual piper for the Scottish Heritage Association as well as the Clans Wallace, Lamont and Morrison. In addition he is the ceremonial piper for the Rowfant Club and English Speaking Union. He also plays old-time country fiddle.

    An author by hobby, Donald's three full-length novels, The Mystery of the Waterloo Bagpipes, The Secret of Lightning Ridge and Calvin Hemingway's Diary - A Novel were most recently honoured by being included in the recommended summer reading list by the State of New Hampshire.

  • Robert J .Kohl

    Robert J .Kohl Embalmer & Funeral Director

    Bob has been a member of the firm since 1957! Bob is a graduate of The Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. He has been active in St. Dominic Church as an usher and administrative assistant. Bob is a past President and over 25 year member of Rotary International and a member of The Knights of Columbus for 55 years. Bob enjoys spending time with his family and friends.

  • Christina Perkins  Forward

    Christina Perkins Forward Family Services/Accounting

    Christina is a graduate of Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, Az (1998) where she studied video production and editing. In 2006 she received a Bachelor's degree in Accounting from the University of Phoenix. She has professional experience as an office manager in the field of Dentistry as well as legal accounting for a law firm. In 2008, Christina moved to Shaker Heights, OH with her husband, Brad. As well as being a full time mother of two young girls, she is a representative with Brown-Forward's "Family Services", accounting department and she is our DVD "Memorial Tribute" specialist. Christina is also an active member of Christ Episcopal Church of Shaker Heights and is active in numerous volunteer projects including but not limited to the Family Promise Host program, Christ Church Community Meal, Christ Episcopal Church Outreach Committee and Food Pantry. She is also a member of the East Side Welcome Club and the Shaker Business Women Roundtable.

  • Bradley  Forward

    Bradley Forward Vice President and Funeral Director


    Brad graduated from Shaker Heights High School in 1995 and received a Bachelor's Degree from Arizona State University in 1999. From 1999 to 2007, Brad was a police officer in Arizona, achieving the rank of Detective. In January, 2008, he returned home with his wife to Shaker Heights to join Brown-Forward as a fourth generation Funeral Director. Brad and his wife are parents of two little girls, Sydney (born March, 2010) and Ava Rose (born January, 2013). Brad is an active member of Christ Episcopal Church in Shaker Heights and had recently served as a member of Vestry. He enjoys athletics, weightlifting and continues to play competitive recreational ice hockey and fast pitch baseball.

  • Kelly Pekoc

    Kelly Pekoc Family Services/Office Assistant

  • Kimberly Forward Hurtt

    Kimberly Forward Hurtt Marketing/Social Media Director/Grief Therapist

    Kim is a Shaker Heights High School graduate, class of 1991. She has received her Bachelors degree from Defiance college and her Masters in Social Work from the University of Toledo. Kim is the daughter of Robert Forward, sister of Bradley Forward and niece of Judy Forward. She is the director of marketing and social media for the funeral home. As a licensed Social Worker, Kim will assist anyone in need with grief counseling.

  • Maxine Devand  Forward

    Maxine Devand Forward In Loving Memory



    Maxine and G. Budd Forward founded Brown-Forward in 1951. Maxine grew up in the former DeVand Funeral Home and was a licensed Funeral Director, as was her mother, the late Gertrude DeVand. She served as Chairman of the Board and Funeral Director of Brown-Forward Funeral Service until her passing in 2003. Maxine was a graduate of Bradford Jr. College and member of Zonta International.

  • Shelby Forward

    Shelby Forward Therapy Dog (in training)

    Shelby is a young Golden Retriever and future Therapy Dog. She has a naturally loving and non-invasive demeanor. She is frequently groomed to reduce pet dander that may cause allergies with some people. Shelby is also available for home, nursing home or hospital visits.

  • Rocco .

    Rocco . Certified Therapy Dog

    Rocco was born in 2007, and is a mixture of a Great Dane and Black Labrador. He was certified as a Therapy Dog by Therapy Dogs International (TDI) and is here to provide comfort to those attending arrangements and/or services. Rocco had a naturally calm, comforting and non-invasive demeanor. Although he passed away in 2016, he will live on in our hearts.