By Amanda Dyslin
---- — ST. PETER — Janet Jones' family connection to Gustavus Adolphus College began in the 1920s with her father, W.E. Hanson.
Hanson graduated from the college in 1925 and went on to serve on the Board of Trustees, serving as chairman in the early 1950s. Janet graduated from Gustavus in 1954, and her soon-to-be husband, Ellis Jones, graduated in 1952. The Joneses had two children, as well as grandchildren, who graduated from Gustavus.
So when Janet died in April, the family discussion of what to do with her cremation remains led to an obvious place: the Christ Chapel Memorial Garden, which is under construction and will be dedicated during Sunday morning worship Sept. 29 in Christ Chapel.
“It means a lot to us because that's where we got our educational experience (that would lead to the rest of our lives),” said Ellis of St. Peter, who taught in the department of economics and management at Gustavus for 40 years. “We have such a long family history there. It goes back almost 90 years.”
Now Ellis is just waiting for the completion of the columbarium to have Janet interred. And when the time comes, his remains will join hers, he said.
The columbarium is on the south side of Christ Chapel and will serve as a final resting place for the ashes of college faculty, employees and alumni. There will be about 300 niches available in the concrete and Kasota-stone structure.
Gustavus isn't quite ready to take reservations for niches in the Memorial Garden. But Barb Larson Taylor, assistant to the president for special projects, said the college has already heard from about five people, including Ellis, who are interested in having the ashes of loved ones interred in the structure.
“Alumni, especially of a smaller institution, are connected, and they do feel that they stay connected,” Taylor said. “Even as a first-year (student), we say there's a lifetime relationship that you have entered into. And we talk pretty often about that.”
The growing trend of cremation the past 20 years has led to a national trend in such memorial parks at colleges. Taylor said as people have become more transient — moving from city to city instead of staying in their hometowns for a lifetime — they have become less connected to hometown churches or cemeteries. So people are looking for meaningful places to inter remains.
Plans for the structure began last spring but the discussion began decades ago. Taylor said the national trend of such columbariums, as well as other beautification and construction projects going on around Christ Chapel, served as catalysts for finally moving forward.
An undisclosed gift covering the cost of construction came from Nancy Lindau and the Lindau family, who are longtime supporters of Gustavus. Sales of the 300 niches will pay for maintenance and upkeep, among other things. Each niche costs $2,000 for one person's remains or $3,000 for two.
The structure also will include an area to engrave the names of students who die while attending Gustavus.
“Hopefully, what the feeling is for everyone is, 'Wow, people feel that connected to this place?'” Taylor said. “It's a sense of longevity and history.”