An Atlanta-based company is bringing new meaning
to burial at sea off Flagler County's shoreline.
Eternal Reefs Inc. has chosen Flagler as the next site for a
memorial reef partly made of cremated human remains, known as
cremains. The remains are mixed with concrete and formed into balls
that are designed to encourage growth of coral and vegetation,
providing habitat for sea life.
The Flagler County reef will be the fifth offshore memorial site
in Florida. Eternal Reefs also has memorial reef sites off Sarasota,
the Tampa Bay area, Pensacola and Fort Lauderdale, said company
founder Don Brawley.
"A lot of loved ones say 'just scatter my remains' and the family
doesn't like that because they feel like they are throwing their
loved ones away," Brawley said. "We'd like to think we're helping
the family build an environmental legacy."
Memorial reefs and other creative memorials are growing as
cremations gain popularity, said Jack Springer, president of the
Chicago-based Cremation Association of North America.
While memorial art is more common, memorial reefs can intrigue
those who want to do something to express their love for the sea and
the environment, he said.
"It appeals to the person as a memorial and ecological
statement," he said.
The reef balls, which last 500 years, come in four sizes. The
smallest is 2 feet high and 3 feet wide and weighs 400 pounds. The
largest is 4 feet high and 6 feet wide and weighs 4,000 pounds,
Brawley and his partner, George Frankel, founded Eternal Reefs in
1998 with the first concrete reef ball made with the remains of
Creating the memorial reefs begins with mixing together 5 gallons
of water and 2 gallons of an eco-friendly concrete and pouring the
mixture into a mold, Brawley said.
The reefs are dressed with an inscribed plaque and then cured for
a month. A viewing is held for the family to take photos or write
messages on the reef, Brawley said.
On the day the reef is dedicated, a boat carries the reef to its
memorial site in the ocean. The family can watch the reef's
placement from a separate charter boat, Brawley said.
Family members are invited to participate in every step of the
process to help them overcome their grief, he said.
"We're trying to work with the families to be interactive and
feel good about what they're doing," Brawley said.
The memorial reefs cost between $1,000 and$5,000, not including
the charter boat rental, Brawley said. According to the company's
Web site, Eternal Reefs has placed about 350 memorial reefs off the
coasts of Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and
But local funeral home directors say it may take some time before
memorial reefs catch on in this part of Florida.
People are more familiar with memorial gardens where they can
visit their loved ones' remains, said Nancy Lohman, owner of Lohman
Funeral Homes in Volusia and Flagler counties.
"For a lot of people, they want that place to go to remember,"