ANDERSON, Ind. —
A vision Rob Loose conceived 11 years ago became reality Friday.
Loose, the president of Loose Funeral Homes and Crematory, christened The Gardens at Willowcrest Park, the state’s first stand-alone cremation garden. Loose and his wife Jane hosted the opening ceremony behind the funeral home and next to the new garden.
Heavy rains shelved some of the events planned for Friday night, but about 100 people attended and enjoyed live music and food under a tent prepared in case of poor weather. Loose encouraged those in attendance to come back on a day better suited for tours. The opening ceremony includes events planned for today and Sunday, as well.
Guest speakers such as Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith and State Rep. Terri Austin talked about the unique aspects of the newly opened park.
“Grounds like this don’t happen without strong visions,” Austen said. “This is going to be a very comforting place to families.”
Cremation is becoming an increasingly popular option. Dan Pollett, field director of the project, said in the late 1970s, only about three percent of Hoosiers chose cremation. He said that number has swelled to nearly a third of Indiana residents today.
“Some of the things that we’re seeing is people are more educated about cremation. It’s a very environmental option. But beyond that it’s a sign of how things are changing,” Pollett said. “People are moving, and sometimes traditional burials just aren’t an option.”
The park contains five separate sections. It’s also the first location in Indiana that provides co-burial locations for pets and their owners. The grounds feature a private mausoleum estate garden, a human cremation garden, a veteran cremation garden for veterans and their loved ones, a human-pet co-burial garden and a strictly pet garden.
“It’s changing the way we bury people,” said landscaper Josh Perkins, who worked on the project. “We’ve created a lot of spaces, and I feel like it’s different,” Perkins said. “When you go to a regular cemetery, it’s kind of somber. Here, it’s a little more joyful, and that’s what I think they wanted. It’s meant to be a celebration of the person.”
The feature for owners to be buried with their pets is expected to be a popular option. Casey Miller, executive director of the Indiana Cemetery Association, said the industry is quickly embracing cremation as an option, for pets as well as humans.
“Pets more and more are being thought of as part of the family, and with this service available, I think it will become more and more mainstream,” Miller said.
He also praised the park for its originality.
“There’s nothing else like this in the Midwest,” he said. “It’s literally the first of its kind.”
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Features of The Gardens at Willowcrest Park, 200 W. 53rd St., Anderson:
- Private mausoleum estate garden
- Human-only cremation garden
- Pet-only cremation garden
- Human-pet co-burial garden
- Veteran cremation garden
Grand opening events
The schedule of events for the weekend:
8 a.m.: Hot-air balloon lift-off
9 a.m.: Veteran’s “Garden of Honor” dedication
11 a.m.: K-9 officer memorial dedication
2:30 p.m.: Pet memorial service
Dusk: Lighting of luminarias and special music
12 p.m.: Opening of park
2 p.m.: Remembrance service with dove release
4 p.m.: Closing ceremony