NORFOLK, Va. -- The family of
the deceased gathered around a concrete truck. The
daughter pulled out a Baggie containing cremated ashes.
"Ready, Dad?" she whispered into the bag.
With that farewell, Jennie Rogers Moore emptied her
father's remains into a plain white pail, then mixed his
ashes with a slew of wet concrete.
This was the scene last month at a new business in
Norfolk, Sea Search of Virginia. In a parking lot off
Church Street, John Grayson Rogers, an Eastern Shore
fisherman and conservationist, became the first
Virginian to be poured into a round mold and made into
an "eternal reef ball."
In about a month, when the gray slurry fully hardens,
this 1,600-pound sphere resembling a giant Whiffle ball
will be dropped to the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. It
will become part of an existing artificial reef near
Nassawadox, Va., where Rogers lived most of his 76 years
and will attract fish, oysters, marine growth, scuba
divers -- and the occasional well-wisher.
Eternal reef balls are a modern alternative to
cemeteries -- with a green twist. They are favored
mostly by avid divers, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts
who want to be "buried at sea" as well as contribute
something to the marine environment they loved.
An Atlanta-based company, Eternal Reefs, started
mixing human ashes and environmentally friendly concrete
in 1998. About 125 memorial balls have been created
since then, sunk mostly off Florida, South Carolina and
Until November, none existed in Virginia.
"We're giving people something that's living, that's
growing, that the family can come and visit," said
company president Don Brawley, who attended the
The balls cost between $850 and $3,200 each,
depending on the size. The Rogers family picked one of
the larger models, a "pallet ball," 3 feet high and 4
A gold plaque was fixed to the side of the ball in
Rogers' name, and each family member left a handprint in
the top of wet concrete mix.
Reef balls were invented about 10 years ago as a way
to restore coral reefs disappearing around the globe.
The Reef Ball Development Group was launched in Florida
and has since sunk nearly 500,000 spheres in oceans and
freshwaters in 40 countries, said Todd Barbor, the
founder and company