NORFOLK, Va. - The family of the deceased
gathered around a concrete truck. The daughter pulled out a Baggie
containing cremated ashes.
"Ready, Dad?" she whispered into the bag.
With that farewell, Jennie Rogers Moore emptied her father's
remains into a plain white pail, then mixed his ashes with a slew of
This was the scene last month at a new business in Norfolk, Sea
Search of Virginia. In a parking lot off Church Street, John Grayson
Rogers, an Eastern Shore fisherman and conservationist, became the
first Virginian to be poured into a round mold and made into an
"eternal reef ball."
In about a month, when the gray slurry fully hardens, this
1,600-pound sphere resembling a giant Whiffle ball will be dropped
to the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. It will become part of an
existing artificial reef near Nassawadox, Va., where Rogers lived
most of his 76 years, and will attract fish, oysters, marine growth,
scuba divers -- and the occasional well-wisher.
Eternal reef balls are a modern alternative to cemeteries -- with
a green twist. They are favored mostly by avid divers, fishermen and
outdoor enthusiasts who want to be "buried at sea" as well as
contribute something to the marine environment they loved.
An Atlanta-based company, Eternal Reefs, started mixing human
ashes and environmentally friendly concrete in 1998. About 125
memorial balls have been created since then, sunk mostly off
Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. Until November, none existed in
"We're giving people something that's living, that's growing,
that the family can come and visit," said company president Don
Brawley, who attended the inaugural pouring.
The balls cost between $850 and $3,200 each, depending on the
size. The Rogers family picked one of the larger models, a "pallet
ball," 3 feet high and 4 feet wide.
When he knew he was going to die from kidney cancer earlier this
year, Rogers told Jennie that he wanted his body "put in a potato
sack, tied to a cinder block and tossed into the Bay somewhere."
Moore reminded him that this type of burial was unhealthy and
probably illegal. But when she read an article about eternal reef
balls, she knew she'd found the answer.
Moore said her father was especially pleased with the idea
because, as a member of a state recreational fishing advisory board,
he had urged greater funding for artificial reefs for years.
Reef balls were invented about 10 years ago as a way to restore
coral reefs disappearing around the globe. The Reef Ball Development
Group was launched in Florida and has since sunk nearly 500,000
spheres in oceans and freshwaters in 40 countries, said president
Todd Barbor, the founder and company president.