The Neighbors Will Burn With Envy

Now you can go to that great putting green in the sky in the bottom of a golf bag. Or to the final roundup snug in a pair of cowboy boots. Cremations are on a steady rise, so the elegant but--let's face it--boring urn atop the mantel is giving way to bags, boots, and other more personalized designs. "People understand they don't have to remain with traditional urns," says Dennis McNulty, sales manager for Kelco Supply, the Minneapolis-based funeral supply company. Kelco started selling designer urns last year and has seen strong demand for them. "We offer urns for all types," says McNulty. The containers each go for around $550, about the same as for a traditional urn.

A record 20% of the Americans who died last year were cremated, according to the National Funeral Directors Assn. On the Pacific Coast, nearly half of all deaths led to cremation. Reasons for the rise: lower costs, shortage of burial space, and convenience for increasingly transient families.

The aging population suggests a bright future for this grim business. Nearly 2.3 million died last year in the U.S., with 3 million dearly departeds expected in 2025. In a crowd like that, a final statement of individuality has an appeal.

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