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story.lead_photo.caption Daniel Caro works to level the ground surrounding the newly-placed granite column-burium at Flag Spring Cemetery. Caro and Tripp Johnson of Johnson Granite Supply placed the structure May 14, 2019, to give Moniteau County residents a permanent place for inurnment. Photo by Liz Morales / California Democrat.

Nearly half of the nation is choosing cremation over in-ground burial, according to the chief executive officer of a company building a "column-burium" at a local cemetery.

Tripp Johnson, president and CEO of Johnson Granite Supply, said the structure, which serves as a mausoleum, will be used to place the cremains of deceased Moniteau County residents and their loved ones at Flag Spring Cemetery.

"Historically, the cremation rate among communities varies," Johnson said. "The same is for different states. Our vision was to bring a column here to serve residents in California and Moniteau County. I think this is the only one in the county."

On May 14, ground was broken and the structure was erected in the western California countryside.

Having a dedicated place for inurnment, the placing of cremated remains in an urn, can offer relief to the bereaved, said Lana Dicus, Flag Spring cemetery board member.

"It's really the wave of the future," Dicus said of cremation. "This column-burium can allow people to go here and see their deceased relatives instead of keeping the urns in their homes. Sometimes people are unsure of what to do with the cremains. 'Do we keep it? Scatter it?'"

Johnson said traveling family members who scatter their loved ones' cremains may find themselves in another predicament.

"If you were to scatter your family member's cremains at Pikes Peak, that is all well and good, but how often do you get back there?" he said. "What if you wanted to visit?"

The column-barium stands approximately 6 feet tall on the southern edge of the cemetery and holds 48 niches. Dicus said each niche can hold one to two urns, but plans are being discussed to possibly hold up to four urns.

Along with the column-burium, the cemetery will feature two new enhancements.

"We're going to have names etched on memory sites," Dicus said. "Then people can have the option to have a QR code to scan which can turn up photographs, messaging and audio clips."

While this concept can offer peace to family, it can also serve another purpose.

"It can be used for historical reasons, too," Dicus said. "We can put it up for people who passed decades ago, too. It's a way to tell someone's life story."

Dicus is especially excited for this new addition.

"My parents were much older, so I didn't know my grandparents," she said. "So something like this could help me learn more about them, and the same could be for anyone else like that. This is just great to see for future generations."

A sidewalk will line the southern edge of the cemetery, just beside the column-burium. Atop the sidewalk will rest several benches that will contain cremains, if a family so wishes.

Also in construction is a memorial site for area veterans.