Solar cross popular in cemeteries

AIKEN --- After dark, cemeteries usually fade into the night, rarely given a second thought or glimpse in the glare of city lights.

But Aiken cemeteries are brighter in the evenings. What appears as a blue haze, almost like an eerie fog, becomes a cross or an angel as one nears a grave site.

Eternal Light Cross began shipping its products from Alabama throughout the Southeast in 2005 and has seen inquiries pick up.

The solar crosses and angels gather energy during the day. At night, they give off light from the solar energy, illuminating their plots.

"People don't have to get out of their cars to come by and see their loved ones," said Diana Bouton, the manager of Southlawn Cemetery and Memorial. "They've just gotten more popular in the past year because more people see them."

Cemeteries in Aiken and Upstate South Carolina are popular for sales, said Gabe Fikes, the owner of Eternal Light Cross, but they haven't caught on in the Augusta area. Several Augusta-area cemetery managers said they had never heard of the product.

The devices, which cost about $30 to $35, are sold mostly to funeral homes and wholesale stores. Only one grocery store in Aiken -- the Bi-Lo at Pine Log and Silver Bluff roads -- carries them.

Mr. Fikes said the company sells more than 75,000 solar items a year.

"I saw something that I thought would work and it did," he said.

Solar crosses are the most popular in the Veterans Corner of Southlawn off Whiskey Road, Ms. Bouton said.

"If you think about the past, most people don't even want to go to a cemetery at night," she said. "But you go past and it has little crosses and angels all over the place -- it gives a warm and comforting feeling. Families love the way it looks."

Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106 or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com.