Family members held each other tight as they gathered around an urn to say their final goodbyes to a man they loved.
After pulling a lever on the square urn, the family watched as his ashes flowed out of the box and floated in a fine cloud over the Snake River before gently falling and dispersing.
That experience is what Scotty Crandlemire dreamed of as a better way for people to honor their loved ones after death. Crandlemire, of Meridian, has patented an urn that automatically scatters ashes. It’s meant to be more dignified and less traumatic than attempting to scatter ashes by hand.
Crandlemire got the idea for his AngelAire urn after a bad experience he had while trying to honor a friend’s final wishes. Instead of scattering the way Crandlemire hoped and thought they would, the ashes came out in clumps. They pooled around his feet and even got into his shoes.
“It was a terrible experience, so I fixed the problem,” he said.
Crandlemire, a pilot with no previous experience in the death care industry, saw his idea form in a dream.
“I woke up, took down the notes and approximately four years from there I got patented and invented the urn,” he said.
The square urn has a fan mechanism that spreads the ashes in a controlled manner. Once the lever is pulled, the ashes spread for about two minutes.
Crandlemire’s invention has been used in about a dozen scattering events. He has turned his idea into a business that he’s now franchising. Its first location opened in Caldwell in April.
AngelAire has several designs of urns to choose from, and the staff can plan an event around the scattering.
“We developed a business plan with the idea of it being a funeral service with the ash scattering as the central focus of our services,” says AngelAire Vice President Jim Thorpe.
Prices range from $500, for a scattering done by AngelAire employees with a video provided, to $1,500 or more for an event.
Patsy Forsberg-Young of Meridian chose AngelAire for a service to scatter the ashes of her husband, Jay L. Young Sr., at their property in Kuna.
“We set it on a hill overlooking the creek,” Forsberg-Young says. “We let the ashes go, and when it was all over, everyone that was there commented to me that it was the most peaceful funeral they had ever been to.”
Forsberg-Young liked the experience so much that she decided to plan cremation for herself. She had originally planned a burial but changed her mind after the AngelAire service.
FINDING A NICHE IN THE INDUSTRY
Crandlemire thought inventing a new product would be the hard part, but he found that forming the business was the bigger challenge.
“I thought the death care industry would just wrap their arms around me,” Crandlemire says.
It hasn’t. Crandlemire says the people in the industry are reluctant to embrace cremation, because it’s not as profitable as burial services.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median national cost of funeral with burial was about $7,100 in 2014. For a cremation, the median cost was about $6,000.
But cremation is on the rise. The U.S. cremation rate has nearly doubled in the last 15 years, according to the Cremation Association of North America.
46.7%U.S. cremation rate in 2014, according to the Cremation Association of North America
24.8%Cremation rate in 1999
Crandlemire found interest from his first franchise owner, Sarahlee Ziesing. She opened an office for AngelAire at the Caldwell Airport.
“What I liked about AngelAire is that it filled a niche that no one else is filling right now,” Ziesing says. “ ... It offers a beautiful way for a family to say goodbye to a loved one. It offers closure.”
Crandlemire and Thorpe are still working on perfecting the urn and the pedestal it stands on. They’re also working on other options, such as adding glitter, wildflower seeds or colored chalk to the ashes.
Thorpe says he and Crandlemire are focusing on educating and spreading the word about what they offer.
“We need to get the word out that there’s something new in the marketplace that can really meet a need,” he says.
This story, originally published by the Idaho Press-Tribune, appears Business Insider’s June 15-July 19, 2016, print edition (published June 15), e-edition (subscription required) and digital-replica “flipbook” available (on June 15 and afterward) on the Business Insider page.
To contact AngelAire
3901 Aviation Way, Suite C, Caldwell, ID 83605