Cemetery district to celebrate completion of columbarium

This columbarium was recently finished at Sunset Memorial Gardens. An open house featuring the burial place of cremated remains takes place Oct. 18. Courtesy photo

The Grand County Cemetery Maintenance District invites residents to an open house from noon to 4 p.m. on Oct. 18 to celebrate the completion of the district’s Sunset Memorial Gardens columbarium. 

A columbarium is a place for the respectful and usually public storage of cremated human remains. The term comes from the Latin “Columba” (dove) and originally referred to the compartmentalized housing for doves. Roman columbaria were often built partly or completely underground and decorated in frescoes and precious mosaics, according to a statement from Cemetery Manager Robert Buckingham.

Modern columbarias can be either freestanding or part of a mausoleum. The new Sunset Memorial Gardens columbarium was manufactured offsite and delivered as a freestanding unit from the Johnson Granite Supply in Kansas City, Missouri. This company was chosen to construct the columbarium because they use solid U.S. granite construction with no cement or metal fillers, which will give the county centuries of use.

The columbarium is made from Dakota mahogany and beige granite from quarries in the Midwest and contains 50 niches (compartments). Cremation has become more popular in today’s funeral services. Using a columbarium versus burying urns in cemetery plots saves land space and is fiscally more prudent, said Buckingham. 

Each niche can hold two urns and the niche cover eliminates the need to purchase a headstone as it is engraved with the name and the decedent’s dates of birth and death. At Sunset Memorial Gardens, the columbarium is enclosed within the confines of red rock walls to simulate the natural surroundings of the area. It creates a quiet sanctuary where families can come sit on the benches, reflect and be with their loved ones, said Buckingham.

The Sunset columbarium project is the first phase of a three-phase plan. As more space is needed, there is room in the enclosed garden for two more freestanding columbaria. The district understands and respects that cremation may not be the choice for all families and will continue to offer traditional full burials.  

The mission statement of the Cemetery District is to offer the internment, inurnment and care of the citizens and families of the Grand County community and will continue to do so in perpetuity. Sunset Memorial Gardens has recently expanded an additional two acres of grass for traditional burial plots, he said.  

“Join us for the open house to see the new columbarium, pick up our new policies and fee schedule, and to answer any questions that you may have about our services to the community,” said Buckingham in an email. For additional information, contact him at 435-259-6855.