Coastal waters soon to offer final resting place
Underwater: Eternal Reefs provide burial option among
By ALISON BESHUR
The Brownsville Herald
Shortly before Margaret Heflin was diagnosed with a terminal
illness, she read a newspaper article about the creation of
artificial reefs and a company that was blending cremation remains
with cement to make reef balls that were then added to artificial
Heflinís daughter, Patricia Smith, 63, said her motherís
decision to have her cremains buried in a reef ball in Sarasota Bay
changed her dying process, because she felt she could be part of a
living community even in death.
"Before she died, she would say things like, ĎIím going to
see my fishesí," Smith recalls. "And ĎIíve always wanted to own
ocean front propertyí."
Next fall, Eternal Reefs,
Inc., the company that offered
Smithís mother a burial alternative will begin to offer burials off
the shores of South Padre Island. The company is accepting orders
through the middle of July for the first burial set for October
2003, said company president Don
"Weíre creating a permanent living legacy for generations to
come," Brawley said. "Man has done so much damage to the natural
reef system and this is a way to enhance it."
Texas Parks and Wildife has more than 40 artificial reef
sites in the Gulf of Mexico and has granted the company permission
to contribute reef balls to the site about 10 miles from the
jetties, said Paul Hammerschmidt, artificial reef program director
"The Gulf of Mexico is flat with very little geological
relief," he said. "History and science has shown the artificial reef
systems improve the overall marine life."
While most of the reef sites are made up of decommissioned
oil and gas platforms, reef balls are one of the approved methods,
"Theyíre stable, durable and actually act like a natural
reef, attracting marine life of all different levels. A whole
ecosystem gets built out there."
Eternal Reefs, Inc. offers reef balls in four sizes with
costs ranging from about $1,500 to just under $5,000. The largest
reef ball called the Atlantis, is 4-feet high and 6-feet wide and
weighs about 4,000 pounds. The Aquarius reef, the smallest
individual option is 2-feet high and 3-feet wide and weighs about
400 pounds. Community reefs that blend a group of remains are also
available, Brawley said.
Modules are porous and the mixture is pH neutral, so they
donít disturb the natural environment, Brawley said.
"The exterior is rough," he said. "And it creates all of the
nooks and crannies for all of the little buds of life to get a
foothold. If we get enough people doing this we can have a truly
positive impact on our ocean ecosystem and make a meaningful
Smithís 83-year-old mother died shortly after 9/11 and her
burial was in June.
During the ceremony, families wrote messages on the reef
balls with colored chalk and then watched as flower petals and
wreaths were scattered over the water while the spheres
"While the event was solemn and moving, you didnít see people
breaking down, because it was an uplifting experience," Smith
Heflinís daughter said her mother was not a spiritual person,
but thought of her final resting place eased her mind. "It gave her
a destination," Smith said. "It was tremendous."
Buoys mark the spot of the artificial reef site and family
members are given the exact coordinates, Smith said.
"Iím not a certified diver, but my sons are," she said. "Itís
not likely that Iíll visit the reef, but one day, maybe my grandsons
find out more about the reefs, visit www.eternalreefs.com or call
Virginian-Pilot, Nov. 22, 2002 Man who loved bay memorialized in
County News, "New Burial Options combines human remains
with Reef Balls" Oct. 2002
blossoms with the secret of eternal life"
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor,
September 29 2002
Island Sun Times, Sept. 19, 2002, "Reef Balls Deployed, A
7th 2002, Naples Daily News, "Family members bid farewell
to loved ones at artificial reef"
News Service, August 2,2002, "Eternal
Reef Offers Alternative to Cremation Urn"
2002, Demand for 'Eternally Environmental' Options on the Rise,
By George Frankel CEO, Eternal Reefs, Inc.
- Cover Story Eternal
Reefs, Washington Post March 20, 2002
and Page 2 Story, My
1135 E. Van Buren
Brownsville, TX 78520
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