April 9, 2004, 8:20PM
Sea burial: Ashes to ashes, dust to reefBy TOM
Copyright 2004 (Sarasota) Herald-Tribune
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Clear skies greeted relatives and friends who
gathered Monday to put their loved ones to rest two miles off Lido
They boarded fishing boats and headed out to a spot where 18
concrete balls, each weighing hundreds of pounds, bobbed on floats
in front of them.
The "reef balls" contained the ashes of people who chose to be
buried beneath the sea.
"I'm so happy with the choice," said Annalise O'Brien, whose
grandparents, Betty and Leonard Greening of Sarasota, were buried in
a reef ball. "There's something alive about the ocean. It carries
After cancer took Betty Greening, her family decided to inter her
in a reef ball because the couple loved to take cruises and loved
Before the family had a chance to complete her arrangements,
cancer claimed Leonard Greening as well. So their ashes were placed
in a reef ball together to continue a marriage of 58 years in a new
Twenty members of the Greening family watched as the reef balls
were unhooked from the floats and sank beneath the surface, dropping
to the Gulf of Mexico floor 35 feet below.
Members of all 18 families threw flowers in the water and hugged
one another as the names of the deceased were called out over the
More than 250 people from Virginia to Texas have been buried at
sea during the past three years by Eternal Reefs, an Atlanta-based
The burials also are a way to help the environment by creating
structures that benefit fish and other marine life.
The company incorporates cremated remains into a cement mixture
used to cast artificial reef formations at a Sarasota plant. The
process, including the shipboard memorial ceremony, costs from
$1,495 to $4,995.
Keith Cooper's 43-year-old brother, Michael, was killed in a car
accident in Atlanta last year and was among those being buried
"He told his wife if anything ever happened to him he thought
this was the neatest thing that could be done with him," Cooper
said. "This has brought some real closure to the process."
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