PUBLISHED FRIDAY, AUGUST 22, 2003
Reefs turn into final resting place
Loved ones' remains become memorials at sea
Loved ones from seven families found their final resting place
Thursday 13 miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico.
Among them was Florence Soule, who came to rest 100 feet below
the water's surface.
"My dad was buried at sea, and my mom wanted the same thing,"
said Soule's son, David, of Pensacola. He said it was a fitting
place for his mother because she was the pillar of their family.
Jeanne Beverley Jones, left, and her daughter Geri
Well, center, watch as the remains of their husband/father is
incorporated into an artifical reef.
With the help of Eternal Reefs, she became something similar for
the sea life in the Gulf of Mexico.
"This is what she would have wanted," he said.
The Soules got some help to fulfill Frances' last wish from
Eternal Reefs, a Decatur, Ga., company that creates and places
memorial reefs that are made by mixing cremated remains into liquid
concrete to form an artificial reef.
"We like to think that it's not that our loved ones have gone,
but what they are doing now," said Don Brawley, company founder. "As
a final act, to have a positive act is a very rare opportunity."
Brawley, who was a reef builder when his father-in-law asked to
have his cremated remains mixed in with the reef, later turned the
concept into something available to anyone.
An artifical reef containing the ashen remains of Tom
W. Jones is lowered into the Gulf Of Mexico Thursday from a
Early on, the company faced resistance from the state, but it was
determined that the reefs would not be underwater cemeteries and, by
creating new marine habitats, would have a positive impact on the
Memorial reefs are placed where they are most ecologically
needed. The company oversees placement of the reefs only in
officially permitted areas of reef development - projects managed by
federal, state and local governments.
"Another benefit is that the families all of the sudden have this
really deep connection with the ocean and the environment,"
Before Tom W. Jones' memorial reef was placed, his wife, Beverly,
and daughter, Geri Wells, said the day - which was sprinkled with
rain, pods of dolphins and the overhead roar of the practicing Blue
Angels - was picture perfect for Jones.
"My husband would be in seventh heaven," Beverly Jones said.
"This was his way of life. I know he is smiling down right now."
Wells said her father was an environmentalist and the reef would
be his "living legacy."
"The beauty of this is that when you have a burial, there is a
site you have to visit. This is so free," Wells said. "He is adding
to life on Earth, and that's all around us. He's not in a place, he
has a place in the world."
During the placement ceremony, each reef was lowered from a barge
near the fishing boat carrying the families. As each reef splashed
beneath the waves, the families comforted each other and themselves.
Some carried champagne and others clasped their hands in prayer as
their loved ones slipped into the water.
Beverly Jones and Wells gave a high-five after Jones' reef was
lifted into the water. Flowers flew from the hands of the families
into the waves.
"Bye, dad," Wells said.