Sun-Sentinel.com
South Florida's Latest News
Please register or login Home Delivery
HOME | NEWS | SPORTS | ENTERTAINMENT | CLASSIFIED | BUSINESS | WEATHER
 
  
LOCAL NEWS
INSIDE NEWS

Nation/World
South Florida
Cuba
Obituaries
Traffic
Lottery results
Education
Legislature
Columnists
Consumer news
Condo Law
News quiz
News by e-mail

COMMUNITY INFO

Property Records
Immigration
Multicultural Directory
Next Generation

CHANNELS

SOUTH FLORIDA NEWS
  Broward County
  Palm Beach County
  Miami-Dade County
Florida
Nation/World
Cuba
Education
Lotto
Obituaries

WEATHER
Hurricane
Web cam

SPORTS
Miami Dolphins
'Fins Insider Report
Florida Marlins
Miami Heat
Florida Panthers
High school
College
Golf
Outdoors

BUSINESS
Local stocks

ENTERTAINMENT
Movies
Restaurants
Festivals
Music
TV
Stage
Attractions
Nightlife
Celebrity news
Contests

CLASSIFIED
Jobs
Homes
Apartments
Cars
Personals
Place a classified ad

SHOPPING
Advertisers
Newspaper ads
Furniture Row

EDITORIALS/LETTERS
Chan Lowe cartoons

THE EDGE
Multimedia games and graphics.

HEALTH

TRAVEL

FEATURES/LIFESTYLE
Food
Home & Garden
Books

COMMUNITY
Calendar

TRAFFIC
Broward
Palm Beach
Miami-Dade
Maps
Directions

CORRECTIONS

OTHER SERVICES
Archives
Customer service
News by e-mail


Company burying dead in manmade reefs off Fort Lauderdale beach

By David Fleshler
Staff Writer
Posted April 27 2004

The prospect of death is bad enough. But for some people -- scuba divers, fishing enthusiasts, retired Navy sailors -- what's really chilling is the idea of spending eternity on land.

One alternative: burial at sea in an artificial reef. An Atlanta company, Eternal Reefs Inc., takes cremated remains, mixes them with concrete and forms them into balls that resemble igloos with holes. Designed to last 500 years, these structures support marine life by providing hiding places for fish and offering hard surfaces for sponges, coral and other marine creatures.


advertisement




advertisement

On Monday, in the water off Hugh Taylor Birch Park in Fort Lauderdale, reef balls containing the ashes of 16 people were lowered 65 feet to the ocean floor.

As the wind whipped up the sea, two fishing boats carrying friends and relatives left the Radisson Bahia Mar hotel in Fort Lauderdale and headed to a spot about a mile and a half off shore.

They arrived just as a barge was lowering the last of the reef balls into the water, where divers waited to position them in exactly the right spot. As heavy swells rocked the boats, Don Brawley, president of Eternal Reefs, slowly read the names of each of the deceased. At each name he paused, allowing family members to go to the rail and toss in a small symbolic concrete reef ball and flowers.

On the fishing boat Flamingo, Roxana Callow of Rockville, Md., waited to hear the name of her brother John Nickels Griffith, who died at 35 from a combination of arteriosclerosis and combined medication poisoning.

"John was a scuba diver, and he would have given anything to live oceanfront," she said. "This was the furthest south I could get him, with warm water and clear water. He just liked the water and he liked being under it doing the scuba. It seemed like the right thing to do."

When Brawley called his name, Callow and her three sisters and her brother's best friend walked to the railing and tossed flowers into the water. She stood at the railing and gazed out to sea. As the ceremony ended and the boat emitted three horn blasts, tears began rolling down her cheeks.

Later, back at the dock, she said she knew they made a good decision. "When I was looking out at his view now, his view for eternity -- he would be pleased."

The company was founded in 1998 by a group of diving enthusiasts who were already in the artificial reef business. Artificial reefs have become more controversial in the past few years, as scientists and environmentalists questioned whether they helped generate marine life or simply concentrate it where fishing hooks would be waiting. But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved their plan as likely to benefit the marine environment. And the Environmental Protection Agency gave the plan its blessing, concluding that the addition of the cremated human remains would be "relatively benign chemically."

The company offers a choice of models. The top-of-the-line Atlantis reef weighs up to 4,000 pounds and costs $4,995. The least-expensive reef is the Community Reef, which costs $1,495 and contains the ashes of several people. The company has placed more than 250 reefs in the waters off Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia, according to the company.

Some clients came to Eternal Reefs after they or their families found it was difficult to get government approval for burial at sea, said Brawley, the company's president.

"It's very complicated to get it done," he said. "This is an environmentally positive option."

Most of the people whose remains were lowered into the water Monday appeared to have some connection to the ocean or the environment.

When Eleonore Boucher, who loved to fish in the Keys, was ill with pancreatic cancer, her husband Leo recalled, she saw something in the newspaper about Eternal Reefs. She called the company for a videotape.

"We viewed the tape, and we both said that's how we want our remains treated when we die," he said, seated on a bench on the Flamingo. "My wife and I both believe this supports the environment. And it's got a greater degree of permanence than being in the cemetery because I think eventually cemeteries could be dug up."

When Richard Gurnick, of Lafayette, Ind., a career Navy sailor who served in destroyers, was dying of cancer, his brother Robert mentioned a television program on memorial reefs. "He said, `I like that, will you do it for me?'" his brother recalled. "I said `Sure I'll do it for you,' and here we are."

And a memorial reef seemed perfect for A. George Hartman, a former reporter for the old Fort Lauderdale Daily News, and an avid scuba diver who may well have visited this particular spot before.

"He loved the water," said his wife Betty, now of Boyne City, Mich. "It just seemed that would be such a fitting place."

David Fleshler can be reached at dfleshler@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4535.
  Email story
  Print story
PHOTO
Resting place

Resting place
See larger image
(Staff photo/Lou Toman)
Apr 27, 2004

Last farewell

Last farewell
See larger image
(Staff photo/Lou Toman)
Apr 27, 2004

Final resting place

Final resting place
See larger image
(Staff photos/Lou Toman)
Apr 27, 2004

Solemn moment

Solemn moment
See larger image
(Staff photo/Lou Toman)
Apr 26, 2004

Copyright 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel



Questions or comments? | Paid archives | Start a newspaper subscription | How to advertise | Privacy policy
Copyright 2004, Sun-Sentinel Co. & South Florida Interactive, Inc.