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NORFOLK, Va. -- An avid fisherman, John Grayson Rogers advocated for artificial reefs to encourage marine life. Now his cremated remains are within an "eternal reef ball" in waters off his Eastern Shore home. As friends and family cast red roses and said final goodbyes from a ship Monday, the concrete ball was lowered slowly into the green depths of the Chesapeake Bay. "He's on the bottom now, ladies and gentlemen!" announced a worker for Sea Search of Virginia, a Norfolk company that makes, sells and sinks these artificial reefs that resemble giant pocked balls. "I'm glad they're finally doing this," said his wife, Virginia Rogers, "because I know he'd love this being done. The water, the bay. Taking care of it was his priority." While Rogers was a grocer for much of his 76 years, his passion was fishing, and the protection of that sport for future generations. Twelve boatloads of old fishing buddies, longtime friends, state officials and a Coast Guard crew made the trip to Rogers's final resting spot--about 3 miles north of the mouth of Nassawadox Creek, in about 30 feet of water. His reef ball joins an existing artificial reef there, one of 16 in state waters in the lower Chesapeake and along the Atlantic coast. Each is marked with a yellow buoy, and each consists of stuff like surplus Army tanks, trucks, fishing boats, rail cars and unwanted concrete slabs from highways and bridges. A Georgia company, Eternal Reefs, started offering these alternative funerals in 1998. So far, about 125 reef balls have been submerged, mostly off Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The balls cost between $850 and $3,200, depending on size. The Rogers family bought a larger one, called a "pallet ball," about 3 feet high and 4 feet wide. It weighs more than 1,400 pounds and acts as a small marine habitat, attracting fish to its hollow interior and shellfish to its concrete sides. Sea Search of Virginia is negotiating with state regulators to allow more eternal balls in the bay.


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