CUYAHOGA FALLS: Matilde Fairbanks pulls out her smart phone, calls up an app that reads QR codes and aims it at a small ceramic medallion attached to her husband’s tombstone.
Within seconds, her phone displays a biography, a library of 150 photos and even family tree information for Robert Fairbanks, who died last June.
Matilde said the couple’s 2-year-old grandson won’t remember his grandpa, and their great-grandchildren will never meet him, but they and anyone else — present and future — who passes Fairbanks’ marker at Northlawn Memorial Gardens will have the opportunity to see how this one life affected so many others.
“As long as people remember your name and remember who you are and what you did, you are always here,” Fairbanks said.
Several companies are offering QR products for headstones, but the one Fairbanks used is from Cincinnati-based Making Everlasting Memories, which joined the growing market a few months ago.
Fairbanks is the first to use it at Northlawn, although family service manager Heather Gilham says eight other families are waiting to have codes installed.
“It really makes things personal,” Gilham said.
As she walked toward Robert Fairbanks’ grave site, Gilham passed a marker for a 10-year-old boy that included a football and the words “A tough kid.”
“Now, wouldn’t you like to know more about him?” she asked.
Scott Mindrum, founder of Making Everlasting Memories, said headstones have limited space, but the Internet has no bounds.
“That’s the beauty of it,” he said. Families who purchase a QR code will have their information stored on the Internet forever, he said.
It is possible, even likely, that some future technology will require hardware to be swapped in the future. “There will be new things, new ways of doing things that you can hardly imagine,” he said.
But the hardware is just the means for accessing the stories and photos that are preserved.
“If the QR someday is no longer usable, then it doesn’t mean the memories are gone. It means the conduit has been replaced with a better one,” Mindrum said.
Making Everlasting Memories, an archiving and publishing company, has been around since the 1990s with a variety of tools for sharing and preserving stories of loved ones.
Mindrum said he started the company because he thought “there has got to be a way for people to tell their stories and have that available for future generations,” he said. Products have ranged from printed keepsakes to Internet pages.
“Whatever the event — births, graduations, weddings, family reunions — we commemorate them and store them with our technology,” he said.
Codes are everywhere
How those stories are told is constantly changing, and Mindrum said his company keeps trying to look into the “crystal ball” to see which way the technological winds are blowing.
That’s why he was keeping an eye on QR — short for “quick response” — as that smart-phone app evolved.
“We knew eventually this technology would be ubiquitous,” he said.
And it’s getting there.
QR codes are showing up on parking meters, in magazines, on car bodies, even heads of lettuce.
Matilde Fairbanks said most people in her family under the age of 60 would immediately recognize the graphic code.
“My mother would have no clue,” she said with a laugh, “but I think most people know what to do.”
Making Everlasting Memories works directly with cemeteries because each has its own rules and usually wants the hardware style to be consistent.
Northlawn Memorial Gardens chose a ceramic medallion, which it sells for $425. That includes space for up to 2,000 photos and other features, including a guest book and a cemetery map that marks the tombstone’s location.
Customers who use a cemetery that doesn’t offer a QR option or want one for something other than a headstone may contact Making Everlasting Memories directly by visiting www.mem.com or calling 888-549-4636.
“The beauty of QR is that it can be attached to any tangible good,” Mindrum said. “A headstone, a cremation urn, a cross, a memorial, anywhere.”