Reef balls provide watery resting place

5:54 PM, Jul 15, 2011   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida - With adults making pretty designs in concrete, a gathering in Sarasota looks like an art camp for grownups. But these folks are actually designing the final resting place for a loved one.

At Eternal Reefs in Sarasota, family and friends gather to create a lasting memory. Sisters Jackie and Richelle Vogt pour the cremated remains of their mother, Betty, into a bucket. They add concrete and then mix.

"She said, 'This is what I want to do' and here we are doing it for her," says Jackie of their mother's decision to become part of an eternal reef.

Photo Gallery: Reef Balls

Once the remains mixture has hardened, the pearl, as they call it, is placed inside a giant concrete orb called a reef ball. Each ball has a name plaque and family members can also personalize the balls by pressing handprints or other objects into a wet ring of concrete.

Ed Ollivierre of New Jersey says his wife, Karen, loved to snorkel and, when stricken with cancer, she chose the reef ball. "This is perfect for her. There was nothing else she could have done that would have fit her, except for this," says Ollivierre, who also had friends fly in from Texas for the event.

On Monday, families will board a boat in Sarasota and travel about a mile-and-a-half off Lido Beach to watch the balls placed in the water. There they will create a permanent memorial and, along with hundreds of other balls, they'll also be an oasis for fish.

Depending on the size of the reef ball, Eternal Reef services range from $4,000-$7,000.

You'd think creating the reef balls might be a somber event, but people making them found themselves with dirt on their hands and smiles on their faces.

Ollivierre says, "This is something she wanted and I think it's a joyous occasion."

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