12 Celebrities Who Chose a Non-Traditional Funeral
While traditional funeral practices are often seen as glamorous, these expensive memorial options also cause extreme detriment to the environment. Green burial options, then, are becoming increasingly popular for their unique, green, and affordable features. As a result, many celebrities are choosing green options such as scattering, aquamation, and natural burial over traditional funeral options.
Human rights and anti-apartheid activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a hero to many, passed away this year on December 26, 2021. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was known and celebrated widely for his passion for the environment, and his dedication to its protection continued after his death. Not only did Tutu choose a low-cost pine box for the transfer of his remains, he chose to be cremated through a process called “Aquamation,” a new, greener alternative to fire cremation. The scientific term for this process is called “Alkaline Hydrolysis,” and it works by dissolving a body in a water and potassium hydroxide solution. This is known as a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional cremation.
One With the Earth
Rachel McAdams, known for her roles in the Notebook (2004) and Mean Girls (2004), has announced that she’d also like a green funeral after her death. She has expressed interest in a water burial, or more specifically, what she refers to as a Reef Burial. Reef Burials allow a person to be memorialized through a cremation urn that grows into an ocean reef after time. Many people love this option as it allows one to give back to the environment after death. McAdams says, “I don’t want to have a tombstone. You can now be made into a reef! I was reading that they can make your remains into a reef and put you in the ocean and the fish can feed off you! I want to go back into the earth the same way I came.”
Luke Perry’s memorial is about as far from traditional as it gets. The American actor, known widely for his role in teen television show Riverdale, passed away in 2019 from what has been described as a “massive stroke.” After his death in 2019, Perry was buried in a “mushroom suit,” a funeral option that the actor himself discovered before his passing.
This eco-friendly burial suit is worn by the deceased, and works by breaking down into the earth after burial. According to MarketWatch.com, this suit is “infused with a biomix of mushroom mycelium and other microorganisms that are supposed to aid in decomposition, work to neutralize toxins found in the body, and transfer nutrients to plant life, so that the remains of the person lost end up helping create new life.”
English singer songwriter David Robert Jones OAL, known on stage as David Bowie, passed away in New York City in 2016. The actor and musical legend chose “direct cremation,” which refers to a cremation with no funeral service. After a private year-long battle with liver cancer, the artist requested that his ashes be scattered in Bali, Indonesia.
The widely renowned English filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock, is another celebrity who went green after death. He chose the growingly popular, eco-friendly option known as water scattering. His body was cremated, and then his ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean. In fact, before his death he stated, “There is nothing so good as a burial at sea. It is simple, tidy, and not very incriminating.”
John F Kennedy Jr.
John F Kennedy Jr. is another public figure who was cremated. The lawyer and son of 35th United States President John F Kennedy passed away tragically in a plane crash at the young age of 38. Kennedy, his wife, and his sister in-law all died when their plane went down off of Martha’s Vineyard in 1999. The three were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean, not far from the site of the plane crash.
Robin Williams is another celebrity who chose scattering. The American actor and comedian died in August 2014, and was cremated after death. His ashes were returned promptly to the earth through a unique and meaningful green burial. The ashes of the Academy Award-winning actor were scattered in the San Francisco Bay, just off of Marin County.
Walt Disney also chose to be cremated after his passing. A popular myth is that the king of animation himself is preserved frozen in the hopes of eventually bringing him back to life or reanimating him. This has been widely debunked; however, and after he lost his battle to lung cancer in 1966, his ashes were scattered in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Albert Einstein, the father of physics, was cremated after his passing in 1955 at the age of 76. His death occurred after his refusal to undergo potentially life saving surgery, insisting that “ It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share; it is time to go”. The Nobel Prize-winning scientist was cremated, and his brain was preserved for scientific research. However, his brain preservation actually went against his wishes. Einstein specifically chose to be cremated in order to avoid his body becoming a scientific commodity after his death. Fittingly, his ashes were scattered throughout the land of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, where he worked on his theory of relativity and was briefly a lecturer.
John Lennon’s funeral was particularly unique and meaningful, both to his loved ones and his fans. The member of the band “The Beatles” also chose to be cremated and scattered. However, he chose to be scattered in an area that he and his wife called “Strawberry Fields,” an area within Central Park that the couple loved. Here, not far from the couple’s New York City home, his wife Yoko Ono scattered Lennon’s ashes. Strawberry Fields is also the name of one of the band’s most popular songs.
Princess Margaret, the Countess of Snowdon, was known and admired widely for her beauty and love of the arts. She passed away at the age of 71 in London, England after a stroke, and her body was cremated at Slough Crematorium. Her ashes were placed next to her father’s body, where they both now lay at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor.
According to his family, Peter Stringfellow’s last wish was to be memorialized through a green funeral. The British businessman, known as the “King of Clubs,” lost his battle with terminal lung cancer in 2018 at the age of 77. His body was buried at a woodland burial site.
By Abby Crouch