Company will load loved ones' ashes into ammunition

12:18 PM, Oct 1, 2011   |    comments
Clem Parnell, left, and Thad Holmes, in a cemetery in Bay Minette, Ala., say Holy Smoke is a "reverent business."
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A pair of Alabama conservation enforcement officers think they've come up with the perfect way for avid hunters to honor their loved ones for eternity.

Officers Thad Holmes and Clem Parnell have launched Holy Smoke LLC, a company that will, for a price, load cremated human ash into shotgun shells, and rifle and pistol cartridges.

It's the perfect life celebration for someone who loves the outdoors or shooting sports, Parnell says.

"This isn't a joke. It's a job that we take very seriously," he said. "This is a reverent business. We take the utmost care in what we do and show the greatest respect for the remains."

The company, launched in July, shipped out its first two orders on Sept. 16 - one from Florida and one from Kentucky - Holmes says.

It has established www.myholysmoke.com to promote the service and traffic on it has been growing , Holmes says.

For $850, one pound of ash will be loaded into 250 shotgun shells. The ash is mixed in the cups that hold the shot, not the powder.

The same amount of ash will fill the bullets of 100 standard caliber center-fire rifle rounds or 250 pistol rounds. For the rifle and pistol ammunition, the ash is put into the tips of hollow-point bullets with the cavity sealed with wax.

Any remaining ash is shipped back to the customer, along with the loaded ammunition.

"Some people have been concerned that a small amount of ash will remain in the animal that is shot with the ammunition, Holmes said. "But it's just carbon, and a small amount at that. You don't have anything to worry about."

The process takes about 48 hours from the time the ashes are received, Holmes said.

"The people we use are all experienced reloaders and know exactly what we want them to do, he said. "Only one bag of ash will be opened at a time, and the equipment will be thoroughly cleaned before the next set of remains is loaded.

Tim Godwin, a Montgomery landscaping company owner and avid hunter, says he sees no problem with the practice.

"People have had their ashes sprinkled in rivers and the ocean, there have been ashes spread out of airplanes," he said. "If you love hunting or the outdoors, this really isn't much different."

People should take care in with how the meat that is shot with this ammunition is handled, cautions Robert Chapin, a toxicologist who worked for 18 years at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The animal should be killed quickly by the shot, to prevent any possibility of spreading the ashes in the animal's blood, he says. The area around where the animal was struck should not be consumed.

"I would expect that the ashes would pose less of a problem than any lead pellets historically used," Chapin says.

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