Missouri residents find creative ways to remember deceased

Friday, September 3, 2010 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

ST. JOSEPH — Even after death, there are options.

Jimmy and Carissa Benson consider that a blessing and a curse. When arranging for her mother's funeral, Carissa Benson said she was overwhelmed by the process but found comfort in picking out a little something special, just for her and her brother — a memorial cremation bench.

"It'll just be nice for us to sit and talk to mom," Carissa Benson said. "There were a million different things we could've done. We just thought this was what she would've liked."

Almost any monument can be cored out in the same manner for cremated remains. Cemeteries can urn the ashes into the grave site, or remains can be put directly into the foundation, entombing them forever.

"There are just all sorts of options," said Roger Van Vickle of Van Vickle Monuments. "It's almost endless."

More people are choosing cremation for their final disposition, said Eric Montegna, general manager at Meierhoffer Funeral Home and Crematory. So much that the funeral home is ordering its third section of glass-front niches in the mausoleum at St. Joseph Memorial Park. The 42-unit structure hasn't even arrived, and Mark Bodicky has sold its space.

"The previous one filled up rather quickly," said Bodicky, director of sales at Meierhoffer.

Memorial Park Cemetery has glass boxes for cremains inside the mausoleum. The costs range from a base price of about $1,850 to $6,075. The glass-front niches are unique in that they can house not only a loved one's remains, but also personal artifacts, such as a favorite sports team's memorabilia.

"It has really evolved," said Montegna. "And it adds such a personal touch."

As the demand grows, so will Memorial Park. The cemetery plans to add a cremation garden in the park near the mausoleum, with customers being able to purchase space there in spring 2011.

"It's not uncommon in larger communities," said Scott Meierhoffer of the business.

The new garden area will be able to cater to thousands of families and will even have an ossuary.

"More often than not, families are putting more than one member in one site," Van Vickle said about options for cremation. "Even though we're not running out of room here in the Midwest."

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