Reef balls permit unusual burials for people, turtle

Posted: 07/12/2011 in all marine news

David C. Walter –

The remains of loved ones — and a sea turtle — will be laid to rest off Miami’s coast in unusual containers.

Jennifer Werger stood by her father’s memorial Friday, remembering how much he hated funerals.

“He hated crowds,’’ she said. “He just liked peace and quiet.”

William A. Smith’s family had gathered at Haulover Marina to decorate Smith’s “reef ball,” a holed-out cement hemisphere that will serve as an artificial marine habitat.

Six of the odd-looking structures stood in a row Friday morning on the grass in front of the docks, awaiting their final cargo: the cremated remains of five men and a sea turtle. The remains will be mixed with cement and anchored to their respective reef balls, which will be lowered into the waters off Golden Beach on Sunday.

As Werger, 43, and her mother watched, Smith’s grandchildren embedded shells, driftwood and flowers into a fresh layer of cement.

They then carved their names into the ball commemorating their grandfather’s death last year. When it was Werger’s turn, she left a hand print and carved a heart.

“He knows who we are,’’ she said.

Other customers have embedded military medals, wedding rings and ceramic tiles into the balls, said George Frankel, CEO of Eternal Reefs, a company that has seeded more than 80 memorial reef balls off the Miami coast since 1998.

In total, the company has laid around 1,500 people to rest at a chain of artificial reefs stretching all the way from South Florida to the Jersey Shore.

“Everyone from the very elderly to stillborns,” Frankel said.

And then there’s Griffin the sea turtle.

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