Not that I want it to happen anytime soon, but according to the story posted below (and which can be found at its original location here), I can have my ashes spread on the field at the University of Florida when I pass away. This is good news. Now if I can just find a way to get permission for half of me to get spread out in Green Bay I’ll be perfectly happy!
Gator fans can spread their loved ones’ ashes at The Swamp
12:00 am, October 2, 2007
For some University of Florida football fans, the stairway to heaven starts in The Swamp.
For the past several years, UF officials have allowed Gator fans to spread their loved ones’ ashes on Florida Field. There’s no formal program in place for such ceremonies, but UF gets a handful of requests each year from families who want a dead relative to spend eternity in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
“(We get) two to three phone calls a year,” said Natalie Gonzalez, coordinator of operations and facilities at UF. “It’s not a common thing.”
The informal practice was the subject of an Orlando Sentinel story over the weekend.
UF doesn’t facilitate the ceremonies or get involved in any way, but officials do tell families to respect trespassing laws that forbid stepping onto the actual playing field.
“They can go to Row 1 and kind of sprinkle (the ashes),” Gonzalez said.
Bill Barnett, who earned his undergraduate and law degrees from UF, says he’s already made it known to his family that he wants to have his ashes spread on the field.
“I think my body goes to Florida Field, (and) my soul goes to Steve Spurrier’s house,” he said.
Barnett, who has six season tickets on the 50-yard-line, said having his ashes spread at the stadium will help ensure a few family visitations each year.
“This way I know that six or seven times a year my family and friends will say, ‘Hey Bill. How are you?’ ”
The Rev. David Burhans, chaplain emeritus at the University of Richmond, said it’s natural for people to want their ashes spread at a university or stadium they love.
Several years ago, Burhans helped the University of Richmond create a memorial garden on campus, and he says about 50 people have now purchased slots where their ashes can be maintained by the university.
“It’s really a hot thing right now,” said Burhans, who has reserved a space in the memorial garden for himself and his wife. “It just makes a lot of sense to people who love their alma mater.”
Richmond’s memorial garden features a “columbaria,” which is a storage space for urns. Located next to the campus chapel, the garden features a fountain and is “quite inviting,” Burhans said.
University officials wanted to ensure the memorial area wasn’t morose, and Burhans said they succeeded by designing it with beauty and tranquility in mind. Students frequently study around the columbaria, and brides often traipse through it on their way to the chapel before marriage ceremonies.
“It’s so attractive that the brides and the maids of honor have their pictures taken there,” Burhans said.
Richmond isn’t the only place where faculty, alumni and staff can find a final resting place on campus. Notre Dame, the Citadel and Hendrix College are all building similar memorials, The New York Times reported in May.
Badger Moring, funeral director at Moring Funeral Home in Melrose, said he could understand why some families would want their loved ones to be preserved on a college campus or even a football field.
“The bottom line is death is so final, and (a memorial service) is a last tribute to somebody,” Moring said. “So I truly believe that every service should be customized to the individual instead of cookie-cutter.”
After a recent brush with death, Orlando City Attorney Mayanne Downs said her friends discussed the possibility of spreading her ashes at UF’s football stadium. Downs had gone into a coma due to a blood infection, and she had told her friends beforehand that she liked the idea of spending eternity in The Swamp.
“When I think about how important all (my time at UF) has been to me and to my family,” said Downs, who is fully recovered now, “I like the symbolism of leaving a little tiny piece of me at Florida Field.”
Jack Stripling can be reached at 352-374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@gvillesun.com.