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QR Codes For Headstones Keep Dearly Departed Close

Sep 29, 2012
Originally published on September 30, 2012 7:02 am

Lorie Miller bends over her grandparents' grave in north Philadelphia. She holds a two-inch brass square she's going to attach next to the headstone's names and dates.

Printed onto that square is a QR code — that square digital bar code you can scan with a smartphone. Miller peels off the back of her square to expose the adhesive and pushes it into place. The headstone, which otherwise looks the same as many others around it, has just jumped into the modern age.

Miller hopes other grieving families will do the same. She and her husband, Rick, are launching a new business called Digital Legacys to sell the tags. Visitors to a tagged grave can pull out their smartphones, scan the QR symbol, and be sent to a personalized Web page for the deceased.

"They can just upload the photos to the website and we can build their website for them," Lori Miller says. "They give us a biography of their loved ones, and they can upload videos and backgrounds and music."

The Miller's business isn't the first of its kind; others are already having success selling the codes for similar purposes. "It's just a great technology," she says.

Lori Miller's mother, Marilyn Elias, hopes instead of leaving her own mother's gravesite depressed and teary-eyed, the technology will help her remember the good times with her own mother.

"Now I feel that I come out, and I put my smartphone on, and I can look at my mom and say, 'Mom, what were you thinking when you wore that hairdo years ago?' 'I remember when we bought that dress.' I think you can better feel, and walk away feeling better – maybe even laughing, sometimes," she says.

Rick Miller hopes the technology will keep loved ones' stories alive for future generations. He and Lori lost some relatives recently, which made him think that having more than a headstone to interact with at a cemetery would be a good experience – particularly when they take their young daughter to his parents' gravesite. "She doesn't remember or know anything about them," he says.

And, as Lori Miller points out, the QR codes offer everyone a chance to get to know a stranger whose name or death date makes a passerby curious.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

After grieving over a series of personal losses, a Philadelphia area couple decided they'd help others cope with bereavement. And they're doing it with technology - technology that could one day replace those handwritten graveside cards people normally leave. From member station WHYY, Elizabeth Fiedler has our story.

ELIZABETH FIEDLER, BYLINE: Lorie Miller is bent over her grandparents' grave at Northwood Cemetery, holding a two-inch brass square she's going to attach next to the headstone's names and dates. Miller's not sure where to place the tiny piece of technology, and she turns to ask her family members for their opinions.

LORIE MILLER: Mom, do you have a preference as to where you would like them placed?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I would probably guess the lower right?

MILLER: Maybe the top in - left in the top right.

FIEDLER: Miller's holding a QR symbol - one of those square digital designs you can scan with a smartphone. She peels off the back to expose the adhesive and pushes it into place. The headstone, which looks just like many others around her, has just jumped into the modern age. Miller hopes other grieving families will do the same. She and her husband are launching their new business called Digital Legacys to sell the tags. Mourners who visit a tagged grave will be able to pull out their smartphones, scan the QR symbol and be sent to a personalized legacy web page.

MILLER: Then I can just upload the photos to the website, and we can build their website for them and they give us a biography of their loved ones. They can upload videos and backgrounds and music. And it's just a great technology.

FIEDLER: Miller's mother, Marilyn Elias, hopes instead of leaving her own mother's gravesite depressed and teary-eyed, the technology will help her remember the good times.

MARILYN ELIAS: Now, I feel that I can now put my smartphone on, and I can look at my mom and say: Mom, what were you thinking when you wore that hairdo years ago? Or, Mom, I remember that day we went out and picked that dress out. And so I think you can kind of walk away feeling better, maybe even laughing sometimes.

FIEDLER: The Millers' QR code business won't be the first. Others are already having success selling the codes for similar purposes. Lorie Miller's husband, Rick, hopes the technology will keep loved ones' stories alive for future generations.

RICK MILLER: We had lost some relatives recently. And I said to myself it would be great to be able to interact when you're at a cemetery. And particularly, we have a young child, and I think that when we're there, if we're showing her her grandparents' gravesite, she doesn't remember or know anything about them.

FIEDLER: Miller points out the QR codes could even offer a chance to get to know a stranger whose name or birth or death date makes a passerby curious. For NPR News, I'm Elizabeth Fiedler in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.