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Ashes to ashes: Riverside-based cremation scattering service honors loved one with final flight

Riverside-based cremation scattering service honors loved one with final flight

Published: Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 12:24 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Dennis and Susan Martinek stand by their Cessna 172 high-wing plane used by their cremation scattering service company. Their business, Egress, is celebrating 20 years of scattering the remains of loved ones throughout Lake Michigan region.

RIVERSIDE – Looking up in the sky near Lake Michigan, one might see a small plane flying above the water helping family members move on after a loved one’s passing.

Egress, a Riverside-based cremation scattering service, is celebrating 20 years of business this year. Its founders, Susan and Dennis Martinek, started their unique business to help families in need of closure in a meaningful, environmentally friendly way. 

“It’s a great cause and less harmful on the environment,” Sara Martinek, daughter of Susan and Dennis and business developer of Egress, said. “It’s a niche market. We’re solving problems for people in a great way.” 

Susan Martinek said one reason people seek them out is the expense involved in burying a loved one.

“It’s one of the best things to do and cheapest,” Susan Martinek said. “If it’s applicable, it’s a wonderful celebration of their life."

The Martineks take their Cessna 172 high-wing, fixed-wing airplane all over Lake Michigan to wherever the family chooses. Susan Martinek scatters the cremated remains out of a rip stock nylon disposal unit and then scatters rose petals in the person’s memory.

“Every time you look up in the sky you'll think of Auntie May," Susan Martinek said. 

The Cessna 172 is able to go anywhere on Lake Michigan within 3 miles of the shore. Scattering the remains on water is legal under Federal Aviation Administration regulations and the Martineks receive permission on land through the property’s owner.

Some of the popular areas in Chicago have been near the John Hancock Building, Belmont Harbor and Promontory Point in Hyde Park. Outside of the city, people have gone to the Indiana Dunes, Door County and Green Bay, Wis. 

Egress has several options for people to choose what type of scattering they prefer. They include unattended scattering, witnessed scattering, ride-along scattering, military scattering and dual scattering.

Susan Martinek said one of the most emotional moments was a dual scattering of the remains of a grandfather, grandson and dog at once. 

“I cried with them for those few minutes. I am the last one to hold [the loved one]," Susan Martinek said. 

The business started while Dennis Martinek was a corporate pilot. He read a magazine and saw a business called Trail’s End that used Native American traditions to scatter ashes over mountains in Colorado. The family revamped the idea and Dennis Martinek continues to fly for the business. 

“He'd rather fly than do anything,” Susan Martinek said.

He made her fly to Geneva on their first date, she said. 

“I’m not saying it's for everyone, but we've helped many families move on," Susan Martinek said. “I feel very proud of what we do.” 

Egress does not offer cremation services, but they are approved by the Cremation Society of Illinois and the Cremation Association of America. 

For more information call 708-447-8759, or visit www.egresschicago.com.

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