Some fans don’t know when to let go

The Washington Times Weekly - - Page Two - By Mary Fos­ter

NEW OR­LEANS — Even though he’s only 37 and in good health, Nathan Davis has al­ready made out his will. In it, he be­queaths money to the Univer­sity of Alabama ath­letic de­part­ment and his ashes to Bryan­tDenny Sta­dium.

Mr. Davis, whose heav­ily tat­tooed body is a liv­ing trib­ute to his beloved school, wants his re­mains to be­come an ac­tual part of it.

“I spell it out in my will,” Mr. Davis said. “My first choice is to spread my ashes at the sta­dium, sec­ond is on the Walk of Cham­pi­ons, and third is on Bear Bryant’s statue.”

Mr. Davis is one of an ap­par­ently large num­ber of peo­ple who feel there’s no bet­ter place to spend eter­nity than in the place they cheered on the old home team or oth­er­wise cel­e­brated their fa­vorite sport.

A cou­ple of years ago, Christo­pher Note­boom ran across the field dur­ing a Philadel­phia Ea- gles game scat­ter­ing his mother’s ashes as he went. Mr. Note­boom said that Mom was a big Ea­gles fan and that he couldn’t think of a more fit­ting trib­ute.

Ge­orge Helms’ fam­ily had the urn hold­ing his ashes strapped onto a car at the Las Ve­gas Mo­tor Speed­way where it rode dur­ing prac­tice laps. Af­ter­ward, they scat­tered some of the NASCAR fan’s ashes over the track so he could re­main part of his fa­vorite sport.

Al­though most peo­ple tend to look for a place of beauty or seren­ity to scat­ter ashes, said Amy Dick­son, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at the Louisiana State Univer­sity Health Sci­ences Cen­ter, some have other cri­te­ria.

“For an avid sports fan, the idea of hav­ing their ashes scat­tered at a place that made them happy might be very strong,” she said. “For many peo­ple, al­ly­ing with a team is what drives their week. Those events are what they look for­ward to and plan on, so con­tin­u­ing that al­le­giance af­ter death is just an­other step.”

When LSU ex­panded Tiger Sta­dium, where the foot­ball team has played since 1924, the con­trac­tor faced a steady stream of fans car­ry­ing urns, said Herb Vin­cent, the school’s se­nior as­so­ci­ate ath­letic di­rec­tor.

“It was a very reg­u­lar thing,” Mr. Vin­cent said. “The con­trac­tor would call and say, ‘We’ve got an­other one,’ and it would be some­one with an urn of ashes they wanted to put into the sta­dium be­fore the walls were sealed up. We had at least 40 peo­ple ask.”

In ad­di­tion, LSU gets sev­eral re­quests a year to spread ashes at Tiger Sta­dium, all of which they turn down.

Rules for the dis­posal of ashes vary from state to state, al­though Louisiana has no re­stric­tions of how or where they may be dumped, said Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Louisiana De­part­ment of Health and Hos­pi­tals.

“There are reg­u­la­tions for dis­pos­ing of bod­ies, but not ashes,” Mr. Johannessen said. “There’s no health risk in­volved in ashes.”

There are other rea­sons that or­ga­ni­za­tions dis­cour­age the spread­ing of ashes.

“It prob­a­bly hap­pens, and we sort of turn a blind eye if peo­ple are dis­creet,” said Rich Dalrymple, spokesman for the Dal­las Cow­boys. “But we don’t re­ally feel it’s ap­pro­pri­ate. And be­sides, th­ese things have a way of turn­ing into elab­o­rate cer­e­monies and we don’t want a stream of hearses pulling up to the sta­dium.”

Al Ever­est, now the spe­cial­teams coach for the San Fran­cisco 49ers, ran into — and around — the Cow­boys’ no scat­ter­ing pol­icy years ago.

Mr. Ever­est’s name­sake Un­cle Al was a big Cow­boy fan and knew his foot­ball-ori­ented fam­ily — his brother Andy was a coach and his neph­ews played and coached foot­ball — would al­ways think of him when they saw Texas Sta­dium if his ashes were scat­tered there.

“I’d had his ashes for a cou­ple of years, and my sis­ter Kathy and brother Tom fi­nally de­cided to do some­thing about it,” Mr. Ever­est said. “There might have been some liq­uid re­fresh­ment in­volved, but they took Un­cle Al’s ashes to the sta­dium and scat­tered them on the flow­ers out­side the gate. It worked: I never see the Cow­boys, but what I think of Un­cle Al.”

When Con­rad Rehling, who coached the Univer­sity of Alabama golf team for 17 years and was a mem­ber of the Col­lege Golf Coaches Hall of Fame, died, his daugh­ters moved quickly to see that his last wishes would be car­ried out.

Half of Mr. Rehling’s ashes were scat­tered off the prac­tice tee at the Alabama fa­cil­ity, said Jay Seawell, the cur­rent foot­ball coach. The rest were taken care of by golfer Jerry Pate, who played for Mr. Rehling be­fore turn­ing pro.

“I had never spread any­one’s ashes be­fore, and at first it seemed kind of eerie,” Mr. Pate said. “But when I had the op­por­tu­nity to spread Con­rad’s, it was a real honor.”

As re­quested by his old coach, Mr. Pate spread the ashes on the leg­endary golf course at St. An­drews, while at the Bri­tish Open.

“Later, my son showed me a pic­ture he had found that my wife took of Con­rad and me at Swilcan Bridge in 1972,” Mr. Pate said of the land­mark on the 18th fair­way. “I had forgotten all about it, but that’s ex­actly where I scat­tered his ashes.”

Golf cour­ses ap­pear to be among the fa­vorite sports venues for ashes scat­ter­ing. At the Fur­man Univer­sity course, there have been dozens of de­parted golfers’ ashes scat­tered along the greens, said Wil­lie Miller, who has run the golf club for the past dozen years.

Un­like Alabama’s Mr. Seawell, who mused that Mr. Rehling’s ashes might be help­ing the Tide’s highly rated golf team, Mr. Miller doesn’t count on the spir­its of de­parted golfers to help Fur­man.

“Not at all,” he said. “I know how they played.”

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