Company name: Eternal Reefs
CEO George Frankel shared the story behind Eternal Reefs, a business that creates underwater reef balls with cremated remains to replenish the ocean and honor the dead.
Eternal Reefs combines your cremated remains with environmentally-friendly concrete to form a reef ball — pictured above — that is placed on the ocean floor to foster new, natural growth and a habitat for a plethora of marine wildlife including, of course, fish and turtles.
These reef balls are a way people can give back in the afterlife and have an eco-friendly, permanent memorial marker that helps rebuild the ocean’s declining natural reef systems. It’s as healing for the ocean as it is for families and loved ones, as people can be as involved as they’d like in the Eternal Reefs process. For example, at the casting they can actually mix the ashes of their loved one and decorate the reef with handprints, shells and other memorabilia. Then they can boat out to watch as their loved one’s reef is lowered to its final resting place in the ocean.
The primary strategic partner with Eternal Reefs, The Reef Ball Foundation, was created in 1992 by a group of environmentally conscious college friends who enjoyed diving but noticed the natural reefs were declining at an alarming rate. The Foundation developed a patented mold system with an environmentally friendly concrete formula that is now the recognized leader in scientifically designed artificial reefs. Our business, Eternal Reefs, started in 1998 when Carleton Glen Palmer, the father-in-law of Eternal Reefs founder, Don Brawley, said he didn’t want to be buried. Instead, he asked that his cremated remains be added to the concrete in one of The Reef Ball Foundation’s reefs so he could live on with the fish and turtles. And since Carleton Palmer’s first memorial reef, Eternal Reefs has placed more than 1,500 of these gigantic structures weighing between 600 and 4,000 pounds in resort destinations off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia.
The largest challenge for our business is acquiring the permits and working with municipalities to establish a reef system in a new location. However, more prevalent are conversations about the afterlife and the death care industry as well as increased environmental consciousness is helping to ease the paperwork and red-tape. Another challenge is awareness. As a small company with limited resources, we did not realize the degree of social engineering we were in the process of doing. As the idea of green burials gains traction and the baby boomers age, we expect Eternal Reefs to become a mainstream memorial choice. However, we do not view ourselves as an extension of the funeral industry. Our focus is on building reefs and involving families to give them ownership in the process.
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