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Lifestyle

September 22, 2012

High-tech headstones communicate beyond the grave

Business hopes high-tech headstones will document family histories

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Karen Shragg didn’t go with traditional granite for her grandmother’s headstone.

She went high-tech.

The marker features a QR code that allows visitors to a Richfield, Minn., cemetery to read her grandmother’s biography and view photographs of her, as well.

“This is just fantastic,” Shragg said. “It’s revolutionary.”

The idea of sticking a QR code onto a headstone is the brainchild of a Twin Cities-based outfit determined to drag the industry into the 21st century.

More than just a marketing gambit aimed at a techno-obsessed society, it’s an opportunity to document family stories before they fade away, said Norm Taple, president of Katzman Monument Co., which launched the QR codes in 2011. His company is believed to be one of four in the nation offering the QR code service.

“It’s a chance for future generations to make a connection with a loved one,” Taple said. “There’s no emotional connection when all you can look at is a headstone, probably a dirty headstone, at that. We’ve got people telling their own stories, speaking directly to future generations.”

The QR code allows people with smartphones to access a website paying tribute to the dearly departed. Cemetery visitors can read the deceased’s biography, study their family tree, look at pictures or even watch videos of them talking about their lives.

The practice grew out of the surging popularity of memorial videos — sometimes called legacy or end-of-life-videos — in which people tape messages to be played at their funerals. Taple wondered why videos should be limited to funerals.

Thus was born the “interactive memorial.” It’s accessed via the QR code, which is on a 1{-inch-square sticker similar to the renewal tabs used on license plates that can be attached anywhere on the tombstone. It’s free with the purchase of a headstone from Katzman Monument, or you can add it to an existing tombstone for $150.

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