Locals like idea of being part of a living thing, supporting nature.
When discussing funeral plans, Sonny Acedo, a Flagler Beach man, had told his wife, Michele, to scatter his ashes in the ocean. When he died a year ago in March, Michele was making arrangements at Craig Flagler Palms Funeral Home and found out about an opportunity to have his ashes placed in a permanent location that would honor his wish to be part of the ocean that he loved.
Neptune Memorial Reef, located about three miles east of Key Biscayne, is a living reef, built as an artistic interpretation of the Lost City of Atlantis, 40 feet under the sea, with a road, archways, columns, statuary, etc. It serves as a memorial, where cremated remains are part of the infrastructure and include a memorial plaque.
“For those who love the ocean, it’s a nice alternative.” Michele Acedo said recently. “It’s a reef, a living thing.”
Neptune Memorial mixes the cremations in cement molds used to expand the reef. A person can choose to be part of the infrastructure, such as a column or railing, or features such as a turtle, coral, seashell or a starfish.
Michele called her husband an “island boy,” who was born in the Philippines and had always been near the water.
“I know he is happy where he is,” she said. “I think it was meant to be.”
She also has an affinity for the sea, and has a “Protect the Reefs” license plate.
Acedo likes that fact that the reef is a permanent memorial she can visit, as opposed to scattering the ashes.
Taking the remains out to the reef is called “deployment’ and there is an option to go out on the boat. Anyone can snorkel or dive on the reef, and Acedo believes it will be much visited place.
“There are thousands of fish,” she said. “I want the reef to be successful and growing.”
The website has photos of each memorial.
Craig Flagler Palms Funeral Home and Volusia Memorial Funeral Home are part of the Dignity Memorial network and offer the Neptune Memorial Reef option.
‘He was very much a shell lover’
Louise Deckman said her husband, Jim, always loved to collect seashells. Before retiring to Palm Coast, she and Jim would visit the New Jersey shore from their home near Philadelphia.
“He would walk one way and I would walk the other because I wanted to walk and he would always be stopping and looking at shells,” she said with a laugh. “He was very much a shell lover. We have two large brandy snifters full of shells and much more.”
Her husband died last September at age 90 and he is now part of the reef.
Once, they were in the Gulf near Clearwater and he kept diving under the water.
“I said, ‘What are you doing,’” she said. “He came up with a large conch shell.”
She said they had heard about Neptune Memorial Reef awhile back and he said that was what he wanted.
“I felt it was the last thing I could do for him,” she said.
She chose a seashell for his remains.
Carol Banker, of Deltona, has purchased four places in the reef, one for her, and the others for her children. An employee of SCI Funeral Services, Neptune’s parent company, she said it seemed like a viable choice for remains after cremation.
“I want to be part of a reef, something that promotes life, activity, living organisms. It just makes sense,” she said.
She added that the reef will be an enjoyable place for people to visit.
Sue Virtz, business manager for Dignity Memorial, said the reef is now a half-acre and when complete will be 16 acres. The Atlantis theme will continue in the design.
She said they now have 80 species of fish and invertebrates.
“They saw the first shark last year,” she said. “That’s the sign of a healthy reef.”
Traditionally, Virtz said, the deceased would be shipped back to their hometown up north for burial. But these days, relatives are spread out across the country, and more people are opting for remains to be interred in Florida.
Visit nmreef.com or contact your local funeral home representative for information.