PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP)—Surrounded by her family on the bow of a fishing boat, Judy Manning said her final goodbyes to her husband, Brian Delf, who passed away in May after a third round of cancer.
Manning held in her hands a concrete reef ball about the size of a basketball, covered in fresh flowers. After whispering a few words to her husband, she threw the ball over the bow of the boat and watched it sink to the bottom through a school of fluorescent jellyfish.
The reef ball was one of 12 deployed Sept. 23 about 50 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. The reef balls contained the cremated remains of 15 different people – and a few beloved pets – whose families opted to turn their loved ones’ ashes into fresh habitat for local marine life.
“Brian and I were scuba divers and very much pro-environment and loved all of our marine animals,” said Manning, who lives in Mary Esther, before the ceremony. “So I knew I was going to do this 12 to 15 years ago. When his cancer came out of remission, it was his third round, and I said, ‘You know, we really ought to talk about this.’ He wanted to be a part of the reef.”
Eternal Reefs, an Atlanta-based company that gives people the option to have their loved ones’ ashes interred in giant reef balls, has deployed about 2,000 reef balls since its inception, mostly off the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. It added 12 new reef balls to the Escambia East Near Shore Reef system on Sept. 23, about 2 miles off the coast of Pensacola Beach, in a ceremony attended by families of the deceased on fishing boats.