I am a former memorialist who founded and owned a small monument business, ValdostaMemorials.com, from 2004 to 2006 in Valdosta, Georgia. During that time and before, I visited many cemeteries, photographing, observing, and studying the monuments of the departed. I became an expert on memorialization, and my writings were published locally and nationally.

I observed that cemeteries are filled with monuments, often poorly designed and lacking imagination, but seldom are the deceased honored by memorials that tell their life stories, i.e., their legacy. After a few generations pass, and relatives with knowledge of the person have themselves passed, many of their stories will be lost, except for what might have been included in an obituary. The days of newspapers dedicating staff to write obituaries have long ago passed. Further, due to the cost of publishing newspaper obituaries, many people keep them short if anything is written.

Most people are not prolific writers like the author of this article, a retired Full Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus Attorney member of the State Bar of Georgia, former law school editor, and president and founder of the Burton Fletcher Foundation for Animals, Inc. Writing is a skill set many people do not have, or they are insecure about sharing their thoughts in written form.

Most people live quiet lives, focused on their occupation, family, and, hopefully, church, and perhaps even community service, such as volunteering for animals or donating time to an animal shelter or rescue organization.

When I decided to memorialize my life and the life of my sisters, parents, and grandparents, I built a sizable memorial in the McAlpin Advent Christian Church Cemetery. McAlpin is 12 miles south of Live Oak on US 129. It is a rural community where good, honest, hardworking people live, and farming is the area’s primary income source.

I was raised in a brick home that my parents built in the mid-1950s, next to this small church and cemetery where many of my relatives, including a great-grandfather, both sets of grandparents, great-aunts, and a great-uncle, plus uncles and aunts are buried, as well as a lot of wonderful people I knew when I was raised in that rural community. Our family-owned farm property is on the south and east sides of the church, and we gave land to the church on a couple of occasions so the church could expand.

When I die, I will be cremated, and my remains, along with those of a good friend of mine, Emiko Takeuchi, and any dogs that have passed before my death, will be interred in the cremation bench I built at that memorial site. If you have a few extra moments, do an online search by typing in “Emiko Takeuchi, obituary,” and you can read the obituary I wrote for Emi, pronounced “Amy,” when she passed in 2011. I believe you will enjoy it!

I recently designed, constructed, and placed the Fletcher Pet Memorial in our gravesite to commemorate the dogs, cats, ponies, a Scarlet McCaw, and even a pet steer in a memorial plaque I placed there. Those animals loved me, as animals can, unselfishly and entirely trustworthy. Based on my experience as a memorialist, genealogist, author, and certainly a creative person, the Fletcher Pet Memorial was in line with my values to design, build, and place a memorial at that location to honor the animals that so meaningfully touched me during the various chapters of my life.

It does not cost much money to memorialize a person beyond the purchase price of a monument. While I probably spent close to $35,000-$40,000 in 2005-2006 prices, I cannot fathom the cost in today’s dollars. Designing and building the pet memorial I built at McAlpin is unnecessary; this expenditure is out of reach for most people.

A memorial plaque can be created using the same permanent plaque creation that is used to place a picture on a memorial. In fact, I wrote a short summary of my life and Emiko’s life in separate plaques that are approximately 8 ½ x 11 placed on the cremation bench at McAlpin.

A monument is very different from a memorial, but it is within reach of most people if they preplan and prepurchase their own memorial. A memorial is personal, should be well thought out, and does not have to be expensive. It is one method of preserving your legacy for future generations. I encourage you to write your own obituary, preplan your end-of-life wishes, and create a memorial that your loved ones and heirs can visit for many years after passing. Telling your life story is the right thing to do for both the living and those yet born.

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