Hawaii to open first Memorial Reef Site in Oahu

Richard Filanc, a resident of Oahu, Hawaii is opening up Hawaii Memorial Reefs in March 2017. This will be the second memorial reef operation to open up in the United States and the first in the state of Hawaii. Hawaii Memorial Reefs constructs artificial reefs using concrete structures known as Reef Balls. These reef balls serve as the final resting place for your loved ones by holding their cremated remains. They are cast from a special concrete designed to help the growth of new reef systems. After speaking with Filanc, I learned about his inspiration to develop the reef sites, his career in the death care industry, the ecological and spiritual benefits to Hawaii Memorial Reefs, and the feedback Filanc received from the public on this idea.

Filanc has worked full time on developing the reef sites for nearly five years. Filanc became inspired and started researching this idea ten years ago when he was diving in the Philippines and came across an underwater dive site called the Cathedral. Filanc said the cathedral reminded him of being in church and then his friend/business partner spread ashes in Hawaii when his dad passed at one of their favorite dive sties. This inspiration gave way to the concept.  “It is a more environmentally conscious alternative to spreading ashes a sea.”   He put two and two together and decided he wanted to open up a memorial reef site.  Filanc has prior experience in the death care industry as both a funeral director and a cemeterian. His family has owned mortuaries in California since 1911 and he also worked at Oahu Cemetery.

According to Filanc, the benefits to reef ball burials versus your traditional burial or cremation is you can contribute to the environment and leave a legacy for eternity. The reefs create biomass and bio diversity, and the Reef Balls are designed for reef building. The reefs have the same PH level as sea water and have holes in them so fish can swim in and out. They provide nutrients for the fish population and substrate for marine activity. Also, reef sites lessen the burden of having to develop land to build cemeteries. The Green Burial Council are looking at Hawaii Memorial Reefs as a green burial option for those who wish to contribute to the environment when they pass.

The aspect of spreading ashes at sea leaves many visitors with a spiritual connection to their loved ones. Spreading ashes are at the mercy of the current, the tide, and the wind, but you can visit the reef on anniversaries, holidays, and birthdays to throw flowers to honor and remember your loved ones. Also, the progress of the burial reefs will be posted on the website. Even if you don’t live in Hawaii, you can still have a spiritual connection by visiting the website, says Filanc.

Since Hawaii Memorial Reefs went public, Filanc says he received both positive and negative feedback from the community.  A lot of citizens thought the idea was great and they loved the ecological benefit to the reefs, while others were not too keen on the idea. Some citizens didn’t like the idea of developing a cemetery in the bay. Being this is the first reef site opening in Hawaii, Filanc received a lot of media attention on the topic. Hawaii local news outlets have published stories on the topic and there will be an article coming out in the Wall Street Journal about the reef sites in a couple of weeks.

After speaking with Richard Filanc, I am intrigued about the concept and I hope others feel the same. I learned about Filanc’s inspiration to develop the reef sites, his career in the death care industry, the ecological and spiritual benefits to Hawaii Memorial Reefs, and the public’s feedback on this development. For more information and detail on Hawaii Memorial Reefs you can visit their website at: www.hawaiimemorialreefs.com and you can read the full in depth article published by the Wall Street Journal.