- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

CALDWELL, Idaho (AP) - Family members held each other tight as they gathered around an urn to say their final goodbyes to a man they loved.

After pulling a lever on the square urn, the family watched as his ashes flowed out of the box and floated in a fine cloud over the Snake River before gently falling and dispersing.

That experience is what Scotty Crandlemire dreamed of as a better way for people to honor their loved ones after death, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1TElnCs). Crandlemire, of Meridian, has patented an urn that automatically scatters ashes. It’s meant to be more dignified and less traumatic than attempting to scatter ashes by hand.

Crandlemire got the idea for his AngelAire urn after a bad experience he had while trying to honor a friend’s final wishes. Instead of scattering the way Crandlemire hoped and thought they would, the ashes came out in clumps. They pooled around his feet and even got into his shoes.

“It was a terrible experience, so I fixed the problem,” he said.

Crandlemire, a pilot with no previous experience in the death care industry, saw his idea form in a dream.

“I woke up, took down the notes and approximately four years from there I got patented and invented the (AngelAire) urn,” he said.

The square urn has a fan mechanism inside that spreads the ashes in a controlled manner. Once the lever is pulled, the ashes spread from the urn for about two minutes.

Crandlemire’s invention has been used in about a dozen scattering events. He has turned his idea into a business that he’s now in the process of franchising. The first location opened in Caldwell in April.

AngelAire has several designs of urns to choose from, and staff can plan an event around the scattering.

“We developed a business plan with the idea of it being a funeral service with the ash scattering as the central focus of our services,” said AngelAire vice president Jim Thorpe.

The prices range from $500 for a scattering done by AngelAire employees with a video provided to $1,500 or more for an event.

Patsy Forsberg-Young of Meridian chose AngelAire for a service to scatter her husband Jay L. Young Sr.’s ashes at their property in Kuna.

“We set it on a hill overlooking the creek,” Forsberg-Young said. “We let the ashes go, and when it was all over, everyone that was there commented to me that it was the most peaceful funeral they had ever been to.”

Forsberg-Young liked the experience so much that she decided to plan cremation for herself. She had originally planned a burial but changed her mind after the AngelAire service.

FINDING A NICHE IN THE INDUSTRY

Crandlemire thought that inventing a new product would be the hard part, but he found that forming the business was the challenge.

“I thought the death care industry would just wrap their arms around me,” Crandlemire said.

That hasn’t been the case. Crandlemire said the people he has talked to in the industry are reluctant to embrace cremation, because it’s not as profitable as burial services.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median national cost of funeral with burial was about $7,100 in 2014. For a cremation, the median cost was about $6,000.

But cremation is on the rise. The U.S. cremation rate has nearly doubled in the last 15 years, according to the Cremation Association of North America. The national rate in 2014 was 46.7 percent compared to 24.8 percent in 1999.

Crandlemire found interest from his first franchise owner in Sarahlee Ziesing. Ziesing opened an office for AngelAire at the Caldwell Airport.

“What I liked about AngelAire is that it filled a niche that no one else is filling right now,” Ziesing said. ” … It offers a beautiful way for a family to say goodbye to a loved one. It offers closure.”

Crandlemire and Thorpe are now trying to grow that business at a controlled rate. They’re still working on perfecting the urn and the pedestal it stands on.

There are also other options that they’re working with, such as adding in glitter, wildflower seeds or colored chalk to the ashes.

Thorpe said that because this product is new and different, he and Crandlemire are focusing on educating and spreading the word about what it can offer.

“We need to get the word out that there’s something new in the marketplace that can really meet a need,” Thorpe said.

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Information from: Idaho Press-Tribune, http://www.idahopress.com

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