• Teen's suicide draws attention to district’s bullying, mental health policies

    Claire Lowe / Cassandra Rosamond, 19, of Ocean City reads anonymous stories from local students about bullying in Ocean City during a Wednesday, Dec. 17 Ocean City school board meeting.

    OCEAN CITY — Members of the community pressed the Ocean City Board of Education at its Wednesday, Dec. 17 meeting to make bullying and mental illness awareness priorities in the district in the wake of the death of Ocean City High School student Maliha Chowdhury.

  • Ocean City High School

    UPPER TOWNSHIP – School officials in Ocean City said they will not accept School Choice students from Upper Township’s middle school at Ocean City High School, Superintendent Vincent Palmieri said Monday.

    During the Upper Township Board of Education meeting Dec. 15, Palmieri said he and school board president Michele Barbieri met with high school principals and Ocean City Superintendent Kathleen Taylor on Thursday to discuss the issue, and were notified Friday that the students would not be admitted.

  • Jen Marra / Guests take a closer look at the names engraved on the glass plaques of the donor wall that was unveiled Friday, Dec. 12 in the lobby of the Ocean City Community Center. The wall was uncovered during the Ocean City Community Center Association’s Afternoon of Appreciation, recognizing the contributors who made the center possible.

    OCEAN CITY — The many volunteers who helped make the Ocean City Community Center a reality were honored Friday with the unveiling of a new Donor Wall during the Ocean City Community Center Association’s Afternoon of Appreciation.

    “That turned out so well. We couldn’t have been happier,” said Ken Cooper, chairman of the association.

  • Ocean City Downtown Holiday Dash Dec. 19

    A new race will take off in the downtown this month. The Ocean City Downtown Holiday Dash will begin 5:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19 on Asbury Avenue. The race begins at Fifth Street and finishes just beyond 14th Street. Race-day registration begins at 4:30 p.m. in the parking lot at Fifth Street and Asbury Avenue.

  • Strathmere, Sea Isle City dredging will start first, US Army Corps says

    Bill Barlow / A Dec. 9 nor'easter battered southend beaches in Ocean City, eroding some areas like here at 57th Street.

    A beach replenishment project in southend Ocean City, Strathmere and Sea Isle City is currently scheduled to begin in early March 2015, according to new information from the US Army Corps of Engineers, which is coordinating the project.

  • Projects could allow for water hook ups

    MARMORA – The Upper Township Zoning Board of Adjustment Thursday approved an amended site plan, conditional use and lot width and lot frontage variances for a New Jersey American Water project in Marmora that aims to increase water pressure in Upper Township.

    A new well facility there and a planned water tower in Seaville will be connected by a water main, potentially allowing residents to hook up to water service.

  • photos by Claire Lowe / Lawyer Solomon Rothschild (JoHannah Newman, a senior from Ocean City) protests as her client, Jacob Marley (TJ Rumer, a freshman from Marmora), is questioned by Ebenezer Scrooge (Justin Angelastro, a junior from Seaville).

    OCEAN CITY — Students in the Ocean City High School Drama Guild will put Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future on the witness stand as they present “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge” as their fall play next week.

    Making his directorial debut for the Drama Guild is Ocean City High School alumnus Don Toal Jr. A member of the class of 2003, Toal is also a substitute teacher and has worked in the arts for several years, directing shows and teaching classes for the Greater Ocean City Theatre Company.

Act Naturally > The rise of the eco-friendly burial

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

The rise of the eco-friendly burial The rise of the eco-friendly burial

This ‘back-to-the-earth movement’ does away with embalming and even coffins

Until the early 20th century, the majority of Americans died at home, in their beds, in the company of their families. After death, the family anointed the body, sat by it for a period of mourning, then carried it to a final resting place, which sometimes was literally the “family plot.” The container of choice usually was a rough-hewn wooden box, and the dear departed left this world most naturally, with little preparation beyond washing and dressing and a little sprucing up. Oftentimes families even dispensed with the coffin, and put their loved ones in the ground wrapped only in a burial cloth.

Things began to change during the Civil War, when embalming made it possible for soldiers killed in battle to be preserved in all kinds of weather until they could be transported back home. Undertakers hung out their shingles, and the process of dying and being laid to rest slipped behind closed doors. By the 20th century, the transition from life to death – once a normal part of the human experience – was shrouded in secrecy, and left to the “professionals:” doctors, nurses, morticians and funeral directors.

Now the ultimate “back-to-the-earth” movement is bringing back the natural funeral – without concrete vaults and marble mausoleums, without embalming, without expensive bronze and mahogany caskets, and sometimes with no box at all.

A Green Burial Expo will be held Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Steelmantown Cemetery, 101 Steelmantown Road, adjacent to Belleplain State Forest in Woodbine. The only cemetery in New Jersey certified by the nonprofit Green Burial Council, Steelmantown is one of only a dozen or so wholly “green” burial grounds in the country (more and more cemeteries are adding green sections; they’re then known as “hybrids”).

The 10-acre cemetery, a dedicated burial site since the 1700s, “is more about life than death,” says owner Ed Bixby, who acquired the property in 2007. “People who choose this kind of burial are making a final statement about life.”

That statement may be about simplicity, and eschewing some of the costs associated with conventional funerals; it may be about conservation and environmental responsibility; it often is about both, along with the desire to be buried in a truly natural setting, including on winding woodland paths.

The Green Burial Council describes the process as “a new means of protecting natural areas (and) caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact,” including the elimination of the carcinogenic formaldehyde used in embalming.

Bixby says Steelmantown Cemetery became “certifiable by default” – in 300 years, it was simply never modernized. In 1840, the Steelman family donated the land to Upper Township. A schoolhouse and a church were built there; along with members of the community, orphans were often buried in the churchyard. In 1957, the township sold the property to a funeral director. Over time, the congregation disbanded, and the historic cemetery fell into disrepair.

Bixby, a descendant of the Steelmans, visited several years ago, and “I was not pleased,” he says. “Trash had been dumped there. I took ownership to clean it up and preserve it and give people there dignity. I rebuilt a chapel that had been burned in the 1960s, and built a resource center.” He also marked a series of meandering eco-trails that link the cemetery to the state forest. There are now about 350 gravesites dating back to the 1700s. Plots purchased today are deed-restricted, so they will wait indefinitely for the occupant (according to Bixby, traditional cemetery gravesites can be resold if they’re not used within 30 years).

The green burial itself differs markedly from the conventional practice, in which, as Bixby says, mourners have become “spectators.” Active participation in this rite – the act of physically escorting of a loved one through this final passage – can be uniquely comforting to the mourners, he says. Family members and friends can carry the body or box to a hand-dug grave, lower it themselves into the ground, and shovel in the dirt. Stones and markers are welcome, as long as they’re indigenous to the mid-Atlantic region (granite and natural fieldstone are the usual choices); ditto for plants, which also must be native to the area. Most of those interred are buried in shrouds, not coffins.

Bob Fertig, owner of Fertig Funeral Home in Mullica Hill, is doing more and more green burials, and has chosen it for himself when the time comes.

“Many people don’t even realize this is an option,” says Fertig. “You’d be surprised to know how many people think that, even with cremation, you have to be embalmed.”

Fertig’s wife and partner Denise has described the green burial as “intrinsically simple, not commercialized, not product-driven. It’s the way it used to be – and it’s nostalgic.”

Fertig agrees. “There is a healing quality to this kind of burial,” he says. “It can be a beautiful experience.”

It can also be a money-saver. The cheapest plot at Steelmantown is $1,200, and funerals usually run from $3,000 to $3,500. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average funeral cost in 2006 was around $6,500, a figure that doesn’t include the burial fees, including plot and headstone. Though estimates vary, when all is said and done, according to the experts, the typical funeral can cost around $9,000.

A friend of mine lost her husband some years ago, and paid top dollar for what she called “a nice send-off.” It gave her a measure of comfort and made her feel she had paid her respects in the best way possible, and that’s an honorable thing.

As for me, I plan to tell my child to plant me in the old-fashioned way, maybe even without a box, so I can help continue the cycle of life underground. It’s the ultimate in recycling.

The rise of the eco-friendly burial

The rise of the eco-friendly burial


blog comments powered by Disqus