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Tuesday 14 December, 2004

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home : news : local news : top stories
Eternal Reefs provides return to the sea
By Carl Kelly 12/02/2004
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Photo by Carl Kelly
Jeanne Siverson revisits her husband Eric's memorial, displaying the photos she and others took. Eric's cremated remains were placed in an artificial reef a few miles off Sarasota on Oct. 25.
When Islander Jeanne Siverson's husband, Eric, died from a type of lung cancer on May 8 of this year, she thought she might have his remains cremated and spread the ashes over the gulf.

Eric had been an avid fisherman, and in his retirement he had started a fishing and sightseeing charter service on Marco Island called Magic Charters and Tours. Magic was also the name of his flats boat, for he felt the Everglades and the coastal waters of Southwest Florida to be magical.

It seemed to his wife appropriate to have him cremated and his ashes spread in the waters he so loved. But Eric had seen a TV show on Eternal Reefs and had found their Web site. He had also mentioned it to his daughter, who showed Jeanne the Web site.

Jeanne said, "What a great idea. It's a perfect, perfect thing for him."

It was a way to continue his participation in the life of the coastal waters, a way of allowing Eric to be surrounded by the "magic."

Eternal Reefs grew out of some divers' concern regarding the deteriorating condition of natural reefs and their attempt to create artificial reefs using an environmentally friendly concrete molded into shapes that mimic natural reef structure. These structures are now called reef balls.

Carlton Palmer, the father of one of the reef ball developers, requested his cremated remains be placed in one of the artificial reefs. Thus, the concept of Eternal Reefs was born.

The casting of the reef balls takes place about four weeks before they are to be placed underwater. The families are invited to attend the casting so as to participate as the cremated remains are mixed into the concrete and poured into the form. Families will have already chosen a specific size reef ball for their loved one. As part of the casting process, bronze name plaques are attached. Also, the families are invited to attach mementoes to the reef balls.

"They said you can do whatever you want with the reef," Siverson said. "We brought a box of Malamars and butterscotch pudding to put in the reef because they were Eric's favorites. I wrote him a letter and put it in a plastic bottle. His sister left him a toy motorcycle in the reef because he was a motorcycle rider."

After the reef balls are cast, they are taken by barge out to the reef site, and the families follow in other large boats. The site and the reef balls are dedicated, and then as each ball is lowered, the person's name is read. The boat horns sound. The families strew flowers on the water. Goodbyes are said, while the families listen to The Sea by John F. Kennedy.

"We're tied to the ocean, and we go back to the sea - whether it's to sail or to watch it - we're going back from whence we came," Siverson said.

Eternal Reefs has been placing these memorial artificial reefs since October 2001. In 2002, one reef was placed off Marco Island. By the end of 2005, they will have placed 29 sets of reefs in locations as far north as Ocean City, N.J., and as far west as Padre Island, Texas.

The individual memorial reef balls are clustered together at a site just as natural reefs tend to cluster. Families may choose one of three sizes for their loved one's reef ball or they may choose to place the cremated remains in a larger community ball. The latitude and longitude of each reef site is given only to the families.

After the placing of Eric Siverson's reef off the coast of Sarasota, the family decided they would take a boat to the site each year on the anniversary, a fitting way to visit a man who so loved the waters of Southwest Florida.

For more information, visit or call 888-423-7333.

©Marco Island Sun Times 2004
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