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Human Remains Used in Artificial Reefs (AP)

  Posted Saturday, September 25, 2004, 7:00 pm

OCEAN CITY, N.J. - As if shooting a loved one's ashes into space or pressing them into artificial diamonds were not sufficiently offbeat, relatives of the deceased now can have their ashes mixed into concrete to help form ocean habitats.

A Georgia company has placed about 200 of the concrete cones, called "reef balls," in the ocean, mostly along the Gulf Coast. Last week, it interred cones filled with the ashes of several people about seven miles off the shore as part of the Great Egg Reef.

Don Brawley, an accomplished diver, came up with the idea of turning artificial reefs into memorials, and founded Eternal Reefs with George Frankel in 2001.

"Most states with reef programs buy artificial reefs," Frankel said. "We like to think that we're buying public reef balls with private money."

Burying a loved one's ashes in a reef ball can cost $1,000 to $5,000. Decatur, Ga.-based Eternal Reefs also has two models for pets, for $400 and $500.

The balls have grapefruit-sized holes in them to dissipate current, and their surface is dimpled to encourage coral growth.

The company got approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to put ashes in the reef installations. The Great Egg Reef also contains decommissioned Army tanks and old tires cabled together.

Relatives and friends of those interred last week said they wanted to do something more tangible with their loved ones' ashes than scattering them or leaving them on a shelf.

"I thought we would get my three kids together and we would sprinkle them on the ocean," Kit Aronson, who buried the ashes of her husband, Robert, told The New York Times for Saturday's editions. "But this is doing it in a more identifiable fashion, where the kids can see where he is. Not in a mausoleum or Arlington Cemetery, but outdoors."

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