LAID TO REST: A  unique reef ball is lowered into the Pamlico River at Bayview Saturday to lie among the many others that make up the artificial reef being rebuilt by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries’ artificial reef program. This one contains the remains of Matt Miller, a Pinetown man who died last year in a car accident.
LAID TO REST: A unique reef ball is lowered into the Pamlico River at Bayview Saturday to lie among the many others that make up the artificial reef being rebuilt by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries’ artificial reef program. This one contains the remains of Matt Miller, a Pinetown man who died last year in a car accident.

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Fisherman’s paradise: local man laid to rest in Pamlico reef

Published 9:47pm Saturday, June 22, 2013

 

Matt Miller was a ferryman, an oyster shucker and amateur poet, but it was his love of fishing that inspired friends and family to make his final farewell a tribute to his passion.

Miller’s remains were lowered into the Pamlico River Saturday, part of one of 100 bay reef balls that make up the artificial reef just off the shore of Bayview. The reef is being rebuilt by North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries’ artificial reef program; Miller’s cremated remains were mixed with natural cast concrete into a “Memorial Reef,” a permanent legacy with permanent placement in the river he loved.

The memorial reefs are made by the Georgia-based company Eternal Reefs but their placement must be approved by Federal, State and local governments. Saturday’s ceremony represented the first placement of a memorial reef in a North Carolina river, according to Jim Francesconi, director of the state’s artificial reef program.

Miller, 30, died in the early-morning hours of April 10, 2012, the victim of a single vehicle accident. The same day, friends contacted Francesconi about the possibility of incorporating Miller’s ashes in the Bayview reef site, according to Francesconi.

“I can’t believe it’s worked out as well as it has,” Francesconi said. “He’s right on the foundation of the reef we hope to develop over years to come.”

Francesconi was on hand Saturday as boats full of Miller’s family and friends gathered for the memorial, many wearing red shirts from Georgie’s Sports and Oyster Bar where Miller worked. Poems were read and memories shared before they watched as the reef ball, which measures 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide and weighs between 650 and 800 pounds, was lifted from a barge and lowered into about 9 feet of water.

The reef balls are described on the Eternal Reefs website as meaningful, environmental memorials, in that they are used to create new marine habitats — a living, breathing legacy.

For David Mason, who led a prayer at the ceremony and shared a love of fishing with Miller, from now on, the act of fishing the favorite spot will be a time to remember a friend.

“The next time I catch a fish here, I’ll tip my hat and say ‘Thanks, Matt. Thanks,’” Mason said.

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