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Female diver becomes artificial reef


MARCO ISLAND, Florida (July 25, 2002) Victor A. Hill - When Robin Fannin was 10 years old, she put her handprint in a slab of concrete outside the home of her sister, Nora Ralston.

Twenty-one years later, Ralston put her own imprint in concrete.

But this concrete is different.

It contains Fannin's ashes, mixed into concrete to become part of an artificial reef off Marco Island's shore.

Fannin, 31, died of leukemia Oct. 23 in Indianapolis, Ind. Her reef module will be one of several deployed Tuesday, Aug. 6, at a permitted site south of Marco Island in the Ten Thousand Islands. It is one of 22 artificial reefs in Collier County.

Fannin's remains, and those of others, will form an artificial reef that will serve as a refuge for fish. It's a final, philanthropic gesture from a woman who put the needs of others above her own throughout her life, Ralston said.

"She was into good causes.

She worked with the homeless and donated blood," Ralston said.

Even when Fannin began losing her hair, the result of chemotherapy to treat her leukemia, she gave. Fannin had her hair cut for donation to Locks for Love, an organization that provides wigs to children diagnosed with cancer.

Her diagnosis came March 26, 2001, and she got her affairs in order.

As a certified scuba diver, Fannin loved the water and wanted to be close to it, even in death.

"Robin said she wanted to be buried at sea," Ralston said.

Fannin eventually discovered Eternal Reefs Inc., a 4-year-old Georgia-based company that offers burials with a purpose.

"I can take no credit except for doing as I'm told," Ralston said.

She sent Fannin's ashes to Eternal Reefs and later drove down to participate in casting Fannin into a concrete module.

"I mixed her ashes with some water and took some concrete out of the bucket," Ralston said.

"I put a little bit of her in at a time."

Then Ralston remembered the day 21 years ago when Fannin made her handprint in concrete, and Ralston made one of her own.

"Robin is getting a kick out of it," Ralston said.

A plaque on Fannin's module reads: "Robin Fannin/March 10, 1970 - October 23, 2001/ Robin was not finished with life."

As many as 15 modules with 11 sets of remains could be deployed next month, said Don Brawley, president of Eternal Reefs.

Eternal Reefs has created and added to artificial reefs in Sarasota, Fort Lauderdale, Pensacola and Charleston, S.C. The company works with municipalities and uses their permitted locations for deployments.

The deployment will be done with help from the Marco Rod and Gun Club, a local organization that lobbies for the creation of artificial reefs for fishing. The club holds permits for two sites off Collier County's shores.

Members will help tow reef modules by boat to the site, using floating bladders to keep the modules afloat until their deployment.  Divers will place the modules on the bottom, and family members of the deceased will participate in a memorial service on the water.

Ralston, who lives in Rome, Ohio, will be there to bid her sister farewell.

Eternal Reefs provides an alternative that offers families a certain solace, knowing their loved ones have a permanent resting place and are continuing to give of themselves, Brawley said.

That's exactly what Fannin wanted, Ralston said.

Her sister was a jack-of-all- trades, an aircraft mechanic who eventually taught others, especially women, how to repair planes, Ralston recalled.

"She was always extreme," Ralston said.

So it's no surprise Fannin made what some might think is a rather unorthodox decision to be mixed with concrete and buried in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's just typical Robin," Ralston said. "I feel like it's just the next step."


SOURCE - Marco Island Eagle

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