Eternal Reefs: Burial at Sea

By Heather Gordy

Eternal Reefs is a corporation that forms memorial reefs for passed loved ones. A memorial reef is a designed reef made from a mixture of the cremated remains of an individual and an environmentally-safe cement. Memorial reefs provide a new habitat for fish and other marine organisms and are placed in an authorized ocean location chosen by the individual, friend or family.

The concept of Eternal Reefs began in the late ’80s as a restoration project to help restore and rebuild declining reefs. Don Brawley, being an experienced diver for many years, recognized the deterioration of reefs and wanted to help. His initial idea was to create a material and form a surface these organisms could attach onto. From that the reef ball was formed, a molding that would mimic natural reef formation and add a new habitat to the marine environment. Each molding was built from an eco-friendly concrete based substance made from natural materials to attract microorganisms

In 1990, the first reef ball project near Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. was completed. Since then, reef balls have become widely used in coral restoration and habitat development projects, and there has been more than 400,000 reef balls placed on the ocean floor worldwide.

The idea for reef balls to transform into a memorial setting was first introduced by Don Brawley’s father-in-law, Carleton Glen Palmer. While Palmer talked about his cremated remains, he suggested binding them into a reef ball. When he passed, Brawley began working on his request marking the beginning of Eternal Reefs.

The best aspect of the process is that families are given the opportunity to participate in the creation of their loved one’s memorial reef. The process includes mixing the remains into the concrete and personalizing the memorial with hand prints, written messages or small personal mementos. Another part of the process is a keepsake certificate with the longitude and latitude coordinates of your loved one. This service allows an interactive healing process the family can experience together.

Individuals and families find comfort in the thought of their loved ones still being able to contribute to a greater cause. Eternal Reefs provide a meaningful memorial for environmentalist, fishermen, sailors, divers, and people who simply love the ocean. There have been more than 1,800 memorial reefs placed off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia.

For families that choose cremation, this memorial provides a beautiful resting area surrounded by life compared to a traditional cremation urn. Memorial reefs are a permanent contribution to the marine environment that aims toward helping preserve, protect and strengthen the oceans’ overall health. As the contributors of Eternal Reefs say, “It’s really more like, look at what they’re doing now.”

For more information on Eternal Reefs you can call (404) 377- 9777, email info@eternal or visit their website at


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