LaGRANGE, Ga. (WRBL) – LaGrange natives and siblings, Ralph Howard Jr. and Jean Howard, have reached their one year anniversary since turning their family land into an eternal home. The Howard’s co-own 140 acres and have turned some of it into Whispering Hills Nature Preserve and Natural Green Cemetery, it is one of the three green, natural cemeteries in Georgia.
Whispering Hills is a memorial nature preserve that aims to conserve the woodland that the Howard’s own.
“I think that the movement is more towards being aware of the Earth and trying to do positive things. It’s a more natural way because everything goes in the ground in something that is biodegradable and that appeals to a lot of people,” said Jean.
All burials must be biodegradable to ensure that the forest will not be compromised. Corpses cannot be preserved with measures like embalming and must be buried in biodegradable items like a pine wood box or a shroud. Ashes that are brought from cremations must be mixed with a soil compound to ensure it will not compromise plant life.
According to Ralph, in the past year, 30 people have pre-bought the land they would like to be buried in one day. There have been four cremation remains buried, four scatterings of cremation remains and one natural burial.
Ralph said they decided to make their childhood home a green cemetery because although it can be costly to maintain, he did not want to have it developed 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,” said Ralph.
Ralph and Jean agreed that Whispering Hills gives them and families a peaceful place to bury and visit their loved ones that have already been buried there.
Sherry Taylor buried her deceased husband, Boyd Taylor, at Whispering Hills nearly a year ago. She said he chose where he wanted his burial to be prior to his death because he loved the outdoors. She described him as a god-fearing man who loved to make others laugh.
“Ralph took us on a tour and showed us what part of the farm was going to be the new green cemetery and we were riding, not too far over there and Boyd said ‘that’s where I want to be’. A year later right before he ended up going to the hospital and hospice we rode back out here and rode around and sure enough he picked out the very same place and said ‘that’s where I want to be’,” said Taylor.
Taylor also found comfort 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 takes solace in knowing that he is resting where he wanted to be. She describes his burial as heartwarming because she knew he was where he wanted to be.
“We told stories about him and laughed, even some of the grand-nephews, they all told stories about poppe,” said Taylor.
Taylor said she intends to have her cremation remains buried right next to her husband’s and would like to have a remembrance rock next to his.