Do-It-Yourself Funerals

There are lots of places around the country that look like the Ramsey Creek Nature Preserve in Westminster, S.C. — on the surface. But as CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports in this week's "Assignment America," it's what's under the surface that makes Ramsey Creek different.

Take a walk through Ramsey Creek, says Hartman, and you would never know that it's home to the country's first all-natural, do-it-yourself cemetery.

Carol Young, who buried her dad at Ramsey Creek, says her father didn't want to be just another box in just another row at a traditional cemetery. Thanks to Carol and her family, he's not.

"We all sort of helped lower it down," she says of her father's body at the burial, "and then we all took turns filling the grave."

At Ramsey Creek, your loved ones can have pretty much any kind of funeral — as long as the casket is biodegradable ... and you are, too. Sorry, no embalming.

Dr. Billy Campbell started the cemetery seven years ago — he bought the land and still sells the plots. At roughly $3,000, a do-it-yourself funeral at Ramsey Creek is about half the cost of a regular burial.

"We kind of thought it would be all the tree-hugging, granola-crunching people like me," says Campbell. "But it turned out that it had a broader appeal."

The idea is catching on. There are now similar cemeteries in California and Florida, and one is coming soon to upstate New York. HBO even included the concept in the final season of "Six Feet Under."

Of course, like any out-of-the-box idea, do-it-yourself cemeteries have gotten more than a little criticism. But, says Campbell, "The prejudice there is they are equating simplicity with being crude. We're really hoping that people will see these as places of life where you can also be buried."

In fact, Campbell says his model for burying the dead could conserve millions of acres of land for those of us who are still alive — buy up land … sell plots … make parks. Naturally, though, there's the question of whether we'd want to visit a park built by — and on — the dearly departed.

Young would love it if you'd come to Ramsey Creek.

"It really pleases me personally, and for him, that he can be a part of such a beautiful place," she says.
  • John Kreiser

Comments