LaGRANGE, Ga. (WRBL) – The LaGrange natives and their siblings, Ralph Howard Jr. and Jean Howard, have reached their first birthday since turning their family land into an eternal home. The Howards co-own 140 acres and have turned part of it into the Whispering Hills Nature Preserve and Natural Green Cemetery. It is one of three green and natural cemeteries in Georgia.
Whispering Hills is a memorial nature reserve that aims to conserve the forest owned by the Howards.
“I think the movement is more towards an awareness of the Earth and trying to do positive things. It’s a more natural way because it all goes into the ground in something that’s biodegradable and appeals to people. a lot of people,” Jean said.
All burials must be biodegradable to ensure the forest is not compromised. Corpses cannot be preserved with measures like embalming and must be buried in biodegradable objects like a pine box or shroud. Ashes from cremations should be mixed with a soil compound to ensure that they will not compromise plant life.
According to Ralph, over the past year, 30 people have pre-purchased the land they would like to be buried in in one day. There were four buried cremated remains, four scattering cremated remains and one natural burial.
Ralph said they decided to turn their childhood home into a green cemetery because, although it could be expensive to maintain, he didn’t want it turned into homes or businesses.
“I didn’t want to develop, she didn’t want to develop, we didn’t want to develop this property here. We liked it the way it was, it was a lot of fun,” Ralph said.
Ralph and Jean agreed that Whispering Hills offered them and their families a peaceful place to bury and visit loved ones who were already buried there.
Sherry Taylor buried her late husband, Boyd Taylor, in Whispering Hills almost a year ago. She said he chose where he wanted his burial to be before he died because he loved the outdoors. She described him as a God-fearing man who liked to make others laugh.
“Ralph showed us around and showed us which part of the farm was going to be the new green cemetery and we were driving, not too far there and Boyd said ‘this is where I want to be’. A year later , just before he ended up going to hospital and hospice we came back here and walked around and sure enough he picked the same spot and said “this is where I want be,'” Taylor said.
Taylor also found solace in Boyd’s burial at Whispering Hills because he was friends with Ralph and often helped him with different projects around his land.
She often visits him and consoles herself with the knowledge that he is resting where he wanted to be. She describes his burial as comforting because she knew he was where he wanted to be.
“We told stories about him and laughed, even some of the great-nephews, they all told stories about Poppe,” Taylor said.
Taylor said she intended to have her funeral remains buried right next to her husband’s and would like to have a memorial stone next to hers.