What is it like to be an Ash Administrator and scatter ashes in Alaska

What It Is Like To Be An Ash Administrator

It seems like almost every day when people ask about my career. Some seemed stunned when I tell them what I do. Others seem amazed. An Ash Administrator is a rare job but we go to the top of the world to make sure our client's last wish comes true.

The Idea Behind An Ash Administrator

My career as an Ash Administrator didn’t start like a normal career. The idea of Eternal Alaska came to me several years ago while I worked an extended summer in the 49th State. One of my many duties was Nature Guide at the resort where I worked. In that capacity, I led a group of tourists on a short but inciteful walk through the Alaska landscape at sunset. The walk inspired me every time and it often had the same experience on the tourists.

It wasn’t long after I started doing the walks when I heard the first person say that they wanted their ashes scattered in Alaska when they die. The first time I heard that it didn't even register. It probably didn’t even register the second or third time but by the time I had heard it a few times, something began to click.

After a while, I asked a Park Ranger who worked at Denali National Park if that was even legal. The Ranger had never really given it much thought either and didn’t know of any rule prohibiting the scattering of ashes within the park. But they told me that it would be best to check the rules before I encouraged any tourist.

It Almost Didn't Happen

With that, I laid the idea to rest. I was never one to break rules but I was also never one to do a lot of research on something like that. It had been decided that I wanted my ashes scattered near the top of Mount Healy in Alaska when I died but I left it at that. I figured someone in my family would find a way to get my cremated remains back to Alaska.

Spreading ashes in Alaska is a dream come true for some people

It was not until several months later when I was back home in Alabama that the idea snuck up on me again.

One Sunday morning, I had fallen asleep watching the CBS Sunday Morning show. It had always been a favorite of mine since the days of Charles Kuralt. I am not even sure what topic was they were discussing at the time but I woke up wondering how the tourists would get their ashes back to Alaska. I thought about how determined they seemed when they made the statement.

Research For Ash Administrator

So, with a renewed passion, I started researching the subject.

I had a background in finance so I was quickly able to determine the feasibility of the task. I then hit the Internet to find out about the rules.

There are dozens of websites about scattering ashes and most are nothing more than what is referred to as “clickbait”. In other words, the sole purpose of the article is to bring you in and make you buy something. One of those websites said that “there are no state laws that restrict where you can scatter ashes” in Alaska. So, I took that as a green light and started creating my company.

It was not until the new venture started attracting press coverage that I realized I should do my own research and never believe, blindly, what I read on the internet.

A Pause In The Planning

I had received a call from a supervisor with the National Parks in Alaska to inquire exactly what I was trying to do. I was quite shocked and afraid I was in trouble. But the more we talked over the next several weeks, I realized that they were just trying to make sure I was in compliance.

From this inquiry with the National Parks, I also learned that I needed a license from the State of Alaska to be an Ash Administrator. But it wasn't called that. It was actually a mortician's license. I learned I needed more insurance as well. I had no idea I needed all of that. The first website I had come across made it seem much less complicated.

But I wanted more than anything to help the people who requested that their ashes be scattered in this beautiful land. So, I kept working on the infinite details.

National News Coverage

A reporter at the Washington Post even contacted me during the newly extended planning period. The article was about how some families find it heartbreaking to put the ashes of a loved one in the mail. She interviewed me about Eternal Alaska and how I pledged to never ask anyone to mail their loved one’s ashes. I assured her that I would be meeting with a family member personally to receive the ashes and then escort the ashes to Alaska. I promised her that the ashes would never leave my possession until we reached the scattering site.

An article in the Washington Post about mailing the ashes of a loved one

As it turns out, that call from the National Parks Service helped shape Eternal Alaska into what it is today.

With a new State License, a copy of the ash-scattering rules for the Alaska National Parks, insurance, a boost from the national media, and a defined plan, I forged ahead. Silently.

A Quiet Beginning

The first few months were like that. Quiet. No one seemed to even notice my company anymore. I was afraid I had made a mistake. Or, at the least, a miscalculation about how much the service was needed.

Then I started to get a few calls and emails. The first few didn’t think their loved one’s ashes were worthy of the cost. I understood. But with my background in finance, I had calculated all of the costs carefully and I knew what I needed to charge. I knew I wouldn’t get rich with this company but I also knew I didn’t need to go broke.

Then, the unexpected happened.

I was contacted by a widow whose husband had been to Alaska many times. She told me that her late husband had requested his ashes to be scattered on Mount Denali – the highest mountain in North America.

Going The Distance

Together with my first client, we made a plan and it went off without a hitch.

From flying in to meet with the family to receive the ashes, getting through TSA with the cremated remains, flying with the ashes on a commercial flight and even hiring a charter flight to get me to the top of Denali, it all went smoothly. The only hiccup came when the company I hired to mat and frame the beautiful 24x30 photo of the ash scattering site ran out of wood for the frame and delayed delivery of the print. Other than that, it was all perfect.

After that, the pace continued to pick up with an Ash Scattering Memorial in Anchorage and another in the waters of Icy Straits near Juneau the following month.

In the next several years, I added more locations such as Hawaii and the Gulf of Mexico. I compiled a list of rules for the National Parks in the lower 48 so that I could scatter ashes in even more National Parks. Several foreign consulates have even been consulted to arrange ash scattering overseas.

Soon, people began to request unique urns so I started Eternal Alaska Urns

I Am Honored To Be An Ash Administrator

I never planned this career when I graduated high school or college. Honestly, being an Ash Administrator is not something I would have even considered six years ago.

But the job found me as much as I found it. Even though it’s normally a somber experience, it’s also a rewarding experience. For the people who requested to have their ashes scattered in Alaska or on the Appalachian Trail or even in New York City, I help their family members keep that promise. And I am honored.

I help their final wish come true.

Stan Reese is the President of Eternal Alaska and Eternal Alaska Urns

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