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Local cemeteries address trend in cremation

Lakeside Cemetery columbariums at night. Photo by Dave Youngren

“You don’t buy too many things that last forever, and I think we all take that pretty serious,” said Steve Gartzke, president of the non-profit organization Lakeside Cemetery Association.

Lakeside Cemetery recently added two columbariums to its 34 acres off of Nininger Road near Lake Rebecca. The columbariums were built in an effort to stay relevant and up to date with the most recent trends in burial services — cremation.

According to the latest statistics from the Cremation Association of North America, cremation services have been steadily increasing and Minnesota’s cremation rate is at 55.4 percent. Lakeside Cemetery said their rate of cremation versus full body burial is at nearly 66 percent this year so far.

“We’ve decided to make more options for people who want to get cremated rather than just buy a lot,” Gartzke said.

The first columbarium at the cemetery was built in 2004 and the other two were built in July along with some landscaping and benches placed to create a garden setting around the three structures.

Jackie Northard, a volunteer at Lakeside Cemetery, said that garden and landscaping is another benefit to those columbariums. She said it is a place to memorialize and remember loved ones. There is gentleman from Hastings whose wife is interred in the columbarium. Northard said he visits every week.

“He appreciates the fact that there is now a garden bench to sit and reflect and remember,” she said. “It’s become more of a place to be or go versus just a columbarium in the middle of a cemetery, so it is absolutely beautiful.”

Northard said some people choose a place in the columbarium based on different reasons. Some people choose to face the sunrise, others want to face the sunset, and one man asked to have his wife face a cross that could be seen in the direction it was facing.

2016 CANA Annual Cremation Statistics ReportJeff Hunter, parish administrator at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, said when he began working with the SEAS cemetery five years ago, he was surprised to find out that more than 50 percent of people choose cremation.

Hunter said cremation has become more culturally accepted, and he credits that as a reason more and more people are choosing cremation.

“As religions have accepted it, I think people’s personal views have shifted and changed on it,” Hunter said.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton cemetery installed a columbarium about a year ago that holds 120 cremated remains. They chose to add a columbarium as a way to accommodate the cremation trend.

In anticipation of this trend, Hunter said the cemetery has set aside room for more columbariums.

“We have a designated plan that will allow us to install up to ten (columbariums) in one location within the cemetery,” Hunter said.

Barbara Kemmis, the executive director at Cremation Association of North America, said there are primarily three reasons people are choosing cremation service. These reasons include families looking for value and perceiving cremation as a way to save money, extending the timeline for gathering family and friends to celebrate a loved one, or the fact that cremation is becoming a new tradition and is widely accepted.

“Cremation or burial is a personal choice, so the benefits come with the services offered to personalize a celebration of life,” Kemmis said.

Regardless of the reasoning or personalization of cremation, the trend shows that it will continue to grow. By 2018, the Cremation Association of North America predicts the cremation rate will be 63.2 percent.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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