• TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Friday that reflects recent court rulings and removes prohibitions against sports wagering in New Jersey.

    “As I’ve said all along, I am a strong proponent of legalized sports wagering in New Jersey. But given earlier decisions by federal courts, it was critical that we follow a correct and appropriate path to curtail new court challenges and expensive litigation,” Christie said. “I believe we have found that path in this bipartisan legislative effort.” 

  • The staff at Cape Regional Medical Center is training to be ready if a case of Ebola arrives in Cape May County. There was a drill this week, and hospital officials say they are updating their procedures to be ready, just in case. (photo by Jen Marra)CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Kevin Thomas has his hands full.

    The Cape May County health officer is meeting with emergency service providers, hospital staff and others, getting ready for the worst.

    He is also fielding call after call from reporters in the region.

    It seems like everyone in the county – everyone in the world – is scared of Ebola.

    “There’s nothing to be scared about. It’s a matter of being prepared,” Thomas said Friday.

  • MARMORA – An Upper Township man has been charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and unlawful possession of a weapon after the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office Gangs, Guns and Narcotics Task Force and New Jersey State Police executed a search warrant on his home Thursday.

    Angelo Cuculino, 48, of Marmora, was found with more than 28 grams of marijuana and an amount of alpha-pyrrolidinopeniophenone, a stimulant, at his home, according to Prosecutor Robert Taylor. He also had three firearms and $19,225 in cash, the prosecutor said.

  • Skeptics continue to push for privacy protections

    CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — County officials are continuing to move toward bringing drone testing to the Cape May County Airport.

    Some skeptics say too quickly.

    Last week, Freeholder Will Morey met with Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership officials, along with representatives of the Delaware River and Bay Authority at the airport in Lower Township.

  • Carey Stadium at Ocean City High School as seen from the air.(photo by Matt Ulmer)

    OCEAN CITY — Citing the need for more study, Mayor Jay Gillian said Tuesday, Oct. 14 that the city will discontinue the planned artificial turf installation at Carey Stadium until further notice.

    “In light of recent news media accounts regarding possible health risks associated with certain types of artificial turf on athletic fields, I have directed my staff to discontinue the planned project to install this material at Carey Stadium,” Gillian said.

  • Ann Richardson / At left, Barbara Maloney assists Jennifer Shirk, president of the Ocean City Library Board of Trustees, and Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian, in unveiling a portrait of her son, Chris, which will hang in the library.

    OCEAN CITY – Barbara Maloney, the mother of the late Christopher Maloney, had tears in her eyes as she recalled the love her son had for the Ocean City Free Public Library, the organization he led for a decade before his sudden death last December.

    At the unveiling of a portrait of her son and the dedication of the lecture hall now named for him on Monday, Oct. 13 at the library, Maloney said it was “a happy day,” despite her grief, “a happy occasion in a wonderful room in a wonderful building.”

Act Naturally > The rise of the eco-friendly burial

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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

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