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Crematorium fills niche, need as first in Halifax County

Les Powell III, co-owner of Powell’s Funeral Home in South Boston, unfurled on Tuesday an artist’s rendition of Halifax County’s first-ever crematorium, currently under construction on land adjacent to his family business.

With cemeteries around the nation and in the area fast filling up, cremation has become a more popular and economical option for interment, Powell explained.

Area families are choosing another option rather than traditional burial for interment of loved ones.

“We did 52 cremations in 2012, and we’ve done three this year,” he explained, adding cost and convenience are two factors in choosing cremation over traditional burial.

Cremation is not nearly as expensive as traditional ground burial, but the biggest advantage is convenience, Powell added.

“It allows families more time and flexibility in selecting a time for memorial services,” he said.

Workers braving Tuesday’s cold weather were busy constructing the walls of the 28-foot-by-32-foot crematorium, with plans for a brick structure and tin roof.

A retort, a chamber used in the cremation process, is on order with estimated time of completion in late March or April, depending on the weather, Powell said.

Plans call for the crematorium to maintain a wooded appearance with a private driveway to the funeral home and a landscaped walking path, and for the retort building to be set approximately 200 feet away from Broad Street, with foliage used for a screen.

Also planned are displays of cremation-related above-ground tombstones complete with niches and memorial markers, courtesy of South Boston Memorials.

Also at Powell Funeral Home is a selection of wooden urns made by county craftsman Hubert Rice, in addition to ceramic urns.

Tom Gigilo Construction is building the structure that will house the retort, and Dunavant Engineering and Construction did the site work, according to Powell, while Jesse Spencer, Inc. razed the house facing Broad Street prior to groundbreaking almost a month ago.

The Town of South Boston already has acted in response to increasing demand for cremations with the construction last year of a columbarium at Halifax Memorial Gardens.

Families are becoming more accepting of cremation rather than traditional burial, Powell pointed out.

“People you never thought would lean toward cremation do it now,” he said. “You have a lot of options.  You can still have a traditional viewing, but most opt for immediate cremation.”

With the increase in cremations, his business is filling a need, Powell noted, estimating 25-30 percent of his business is cremation-related.

“I’ve heard nothing but positive comments, and a lot of ministers have been very complimentary,” Powell pointed out.