Local memorial service business helps families climb mountains to gain closure
FRISCO — It was just over two years ago when Sam Patrick, founder of Summit Saints, lost a close friend to an untimely death. After struggling with the loss for some time, Patrick decided to climb Mount Williamson in honor of his departed loved one. Patrick described the experience as a weight being lifted off his shoulders as he felt a sense of closure.
“I didn’t even make it off the mountain yet and I thought, ‘Wow, I bet a lot of people don’t know that this exists. I bet a lot of people don’t know that you can reach such a clear sense of closure by exerting yourself physically and being in nature, and doing it with the right reasons and intentions,” Patrick said.
On his way down the mountain, Patrick came up with the idea behind Summit Saints, an ash-scattering and memorial services business. He wanted to give people a similar experience of healing by getting out in nature to memorialize their loved ones. Patrick had a background in environmental safety and health and wilderness therapy, and he enlisted his friend Joseph Naumann, who he met while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Naumann had more of an entrepreneurial background, making the two a perfect pair.
“When he brought up this idea, I thought it was an amazing way to reinvent what memorial services and funerals are about and structure it around the therapy and the bonding that families can do with this kind of activity as opposed to a more traditional funeral,” Naumann said.
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Summit Saints also has a third partner, Jake Rohrer, who functions as the team’s safety professional.
While some may choose to take the route Patrick took in simply dedicating a hike to a departed loved one, Patrick explained that the purpose of Summit Saints is to give the family as much closure as possible. The family is able to take in the memorial, rather than worry about the details of the hike and ash-scattering ceremony, which can be difficult to plan and coordinate when a person is experiencing grief.
Patrick is also an ordained minister, and he and Naumann tailor the experience to the families’ wants by scouting the location beforehand.
Although Patrick and Naumann’s work is emotionally taxing, they both expressed the profound sense of purpose they receive through their work.
“This one woman, I didn’t really see the affects on her right then and there after she scattered her brother’s ashes, but then she talked to me a few weeks later, and she told me that she prays for Summit Saints every day to be successful, and that really hit me. That’s the biggest thanks that I could ever get,” Patrick said.
Naumann recalled Summit Saints’ first client, LaTonya Whitt, and how his experience helping her made him even more sure of his role in Summit Saints.
“I didn’t realize what kind of an impact it would have. LaTonya was our first one down in Las Vegas, and she was amazingly appreciative, and we could just tell how much it meant to her and to her friends that she brought along. Not that I wasn’t already sold on pursuing it, but it was a really gratifying experience to be able to help someone out in that way,” Naumann said.
Whitt had similar comments about her experience with Summit Saints.
“My brother wanted to be cremated, and I was praying about some way to honor him and do something with his ashes that would be unique,” Whitt said. “For me, it definitely brought a great amount of closure. I had a great amount of peace afterward.”
Whitt continues to stay in contact with Patrick and Naumann, and she said she feels connected with them after going through such an emotional process together.
“No matter what someone’s going through — it could be a death, it could be depression, addiction, anything — just get outside, and that’s where your peace is at. Solitude in nature is where peace can be found if someone’s looking for it,” Patrick said.
Who to contact before scattering ashes:
• National forest: U.S. Forest Service. (Note that this is not allowed in all national forests.)
• National park: Chief Ranger’s Office of the National Park Service for that particular park
• Bureau of Land Management land: Contact the BLM for that area
• Private property: Obtain permission from the property owner
• City, town or county land: Contact county officials for information and approval
• No scattering on beaches unless it is a national park where you have obtained the proper permits
• No scattering in the ocean unless you are 3 nautical miles from shore
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