July 20th, 2024

Gravestone QR code provides link to a lost life

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 3, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan A gravestone for 18-year-old Bethany Vander Beek features an engraved QR code providing a digital link to her online obituary.

A QR code has been etched onto a headstone for the first time in Lethbridge.

The initiative was a collaboration between Cornerstone Funeral Home and Lethbridge Monumental to memorialize the life of a young woman from Coaldale.

The family of 18-year-old Bethany Vander Beek, who died following a vehicle collision near Highway 25 in February of 2022, approached Cornerstone with the idea to engrave a QR code as a digital link to their daughter’s obituary. Cornerstone life celebrant and monument counsellor Pat Siedlecki told The Herald this was the first time he had received a request like this.

“This is the first time that I’ve come across a request such as this. And I didn’t know if we could actually pull it off to actually sandblast a QR code into granite stone. I did some investigating. I couldn’t find anything in the Lethbridge area that would indicate that there was an actual QR code sandblasted directly into the stone,” said Siedlecki.

Siedlecki said in his research he found there to be stickers of QR codes on gravestones but they can fall off over time.

“When it’s actually sandblasted into stone, it’s there forever. It’s permanent. So once the family provided us with this QR code that they wanted on the headstone, I sent it off to Lethbridge Monumental…

“What they did is they took that QR code, and they found some pieces of granite that match the same colour that were like scrap pieces, and they did a test sandblast on it,” said Siedlecki.

Siedlecki said Lethbridge Monumental tested different dimensions for the QR code and discovered they could do one as big as two by two inches in size.

“The smaller you go you start losing detail. And especially for something with a QR code is very specific. We found out that we can actually sandblast a QR code at dimensions of two inches by two inches for it to actually work. We know now that we can actually offer something like this to other families in the future,” he explained.

Lethbridge Monumental owner Jim Mulock said this is the first time they have etch a QR code onto a headstone and he noted they didn’t create the code – it was obtained ahead of time and sent to the company.

“It’s the first one we’ve done. We don’t offer the service – customers would have to go and find a company that offers it.”

Once a code is acquired with all the preferred information, Lethbridge Monumental can impact etch it onto the stone, said Mulock.

Mulock added he believes QR codes will be a more frequent request on headstones.

“I think maybe as more and more people see it. It’s a neat idea of being able to go and see your loved one out there and then being able to see pictures of them on your phone. As the younger generations come up, I think it’s probably going to get more popular,” he said.

Siedlecki, too, shared a perspective of QR codes being used more on gravestones in the future.

“I think over time, things evolve, and things change. And I think when it comes to something like this technology, you’ve seen QR codes everywhere we go… It’s something about convenience, and it’s something about technology, and I think that’s always evolving,” said Siedlecki.

Cornerstone business manager Travis Zentner added the codes add accessibility, as well

“When it comes to somebody, they want to share it, because ultimately the QR code, it links back to her websites and her obituary on our web page, so that people can leave condolences. It links back to a place where people can actually share stories and really memorialize her,” said Zentner.

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