Meet our leadership.
Lakewood makes a promise of stewardship and perpetuity to all who choose to be remembered here—which requires disciplined leadership to ensure that the organization has the resources and wherewithal to deliver on that promise.
With oversight from a governing Board of Trustees, our mission-driven leadership team is guiding this esteemed non-profit as it enters its next 150 years of dedicated service to individuals, families and the broader community.
Chris Makowske leads Lakewood in fulfilling our mission to serve families and our bold vision to reimagine the role of a cemetery in modern life. His thoughtful and collaborative approach to leading, supported by his grounded knowledge in nonprofit management and his entrepreneurial spirit, make Chris the ideal leader to begin Lakewood’s journey into our next 150 years.
Chris joined Lakewood in 2009 and has served in a variety of roles, including strategic planning, advising families, helping to oversee grounds and operations, and managing Lakewood’s finances, marketing and outreach initiatives.
Previously, he served in management positions for Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and School in Minnetonka and the Churches of Saint Michael and Saint Mary in Stillwater. Earlier in his career, he worked in product development, marketing and fund development.
Chris earned an MBA from the University of Saint Thomas with a concentration in venture management. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Saint Thomas with majors in philosophy and English and a minor in business administration. He is a director of the Minnesota Association of Cemeteries and past president of the Twin City Association of Cemeteries.
Director of Buildings & Grounds
Paul Aarestad leads the team that cares for Lakewood’s 250 acres of urban memorial parkland and delivers memorial experiences to families. His creative vision has brought innovation, sustainable practices, and breathtaking gardens to Lakewood. Most recently, Paul led the effort to Lakewood becoming an accredited arboretum.
Paul spent most of his summer Saturdays as a child with his grandfather, an avid gardener. He remembers how a lone peony or small clump of tulips brought so much pleasure and excitement to his grandfather — and today, he feels the same anticipation and excitement when the tulips pop up at Lakewood in the spring.
Paul graduated from Anoka Hennepin Technical College in 1982 with a specialty in horticulture, and he’s been working at Lakewood ever since (more than 40 years!). Paul’s creations include the harp and garden temple topiaries, stunning new tulip gardens, and the introduction of more sustainable and diverse plant and tree species at Lakewood. He’s also our resident historian – and you’ll learn something new every time you talk with him.
Director of Marketing & Outreach
Julia Gillis leads the development of programs that support Lakewood’s vision to make memorialization more relevant, accessible and inviting. This includes developing programs that help Lakewood share its landscape, history and artistic treasures, as well as creating meaningful and engaging events, content and experiences for Lakewood’s families and community.
Julia’s journey with Lakewood began in 1997, when she joined a boutique agency that helped Lakewood with its PR and outreach (the owner of the firm led the creation of Lakewood’s history book in the 1990s). She’s worked as an outreach consultant for Lakewood ever since, and Lakewood was her first client when she became an independent consultant in 2004.
She’s also worked with a variety of organizations in the health care and retail industries. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Minnesota.
Director of Family Services
Kelly Leahy leads the Family Services team in offering warm and professional end-of-life planning, care and services to families and individuals. She also co-leads the development of meaningful memorialization choices, services and experiences at Lakewood.
Kelly developed a passion for helping families navigate the end-of-life journey early in her career. After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, she came to Minnesota to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in mortuary science from the University of Minnesota. She then worked as a licensed funeral director for almost 12 years before joining Lakewood as a Family Services advisor in 2015. In 2019, she became Director of Family Services and a member of Lakewood’s leadership team.
Kelly absolutely loves Lakewood’s natural beauty and historical significance. She lives nearby, and was married in Lakewood’s historic chapel.
Director of Finance & Administration
As a steward of Lakewood’s nonprofit resources, Kelsie Mateski helps ensure Lakewood makes thoughtful financial choices so that we can continue to serve families and the community long into the future. She is also responsible for HR/talent management and identifying technologies that can best support the customer and visitor experiences at Lakewood.
After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Luther College, Kelsie worked as a certified public accountant (CPA) for Baker Tilly, LLP, specializing in not-for-profit and higher education. It was in this role that Kelsie “fell in love with Lakewood” on her first visit in 2010.
She served on the external auditing team for Lakewood for almost eight years, and was thrilled when she officially came on-board as Lakewood’s finance director in 2018. The following year, she became a member of Lakewood’s leadership team and her role expanded to include her current responsibilities.