It’s a sun-baked September Friday, and Jack Frost cups his hands around his mouth and shouts toward the pond nearby. He’s “talking” to the Memorial Park geese gliding around the shore and around its sculptures.
As the owner of Memorial Park Funeral Homes and Cemeteries, Frost is proud of those geese. But behind him sits what he’s most proud of — the property’s new, $1.6 million mausoleum.
“There is nothing that we tried to spare,” Frost said, sitting in a chair inside the mausoleum, looking around at the marble sourced from far-flung quarries. “There is nothing we could do to improve this.”
He’s confident, saying it’s “the largest mausoleum under one roof, in a combination facility in the state of Georgia.” With white marble swans looming over the crypts and stained glass swans bedecking the main entrance, there’s likely nothing like it in Alabama, Mississippi or South Carolina either.
“There is a need for it,” Frost said when asked why he decided to make the mausoleum so grandiose. “Many families prefer above-ground entombment over either cremation or ground burial.”
And Frost went all-out. That’s why there are three different types of marble inside the building. The black and gold marble shutters in the main chapel, crypts behind each one, run from the floor almost to the ceiling. Frost said that marble is from Zimbabwe, “The only place in the world you can get it.” So he traveled there to pick it out himself.
“I doubt that there's any other mausoleum in the United States that has this,” Frost said.
He also traveled to China to pick out the rose marble shutters in one of the mausoleum’s corridors. And in the other corridor, there are green marble shutters from Norway.
Altogether, there are 1,008 crypts, which includes companion crypts, and 220 niches for inurnment of cremated remains. The price tags about match the lengths Frost had to go to get his marble: Prices range from $2,000 to $15,000 depending on height and style.
Walking into the mausoleum, the first thing you see is that marble from Zimbabwe. There are chairs in the main chapel with huge chandeliers hanging above. Small windows dot the tops of the halls.
Near the front of the main chapel are couches for the immediate family when services are held there.
In each corridor — one to the left of the main chapel, one to the right — there are more crypts with more marble shutters running from the floor to the ceiling. There are more chandeliers and a couple of benches. But toward the back of each corridor is what Frost calls a private room.
It’s a gated area with a private bench. A family can buy that room for seven family members.
In those rooms, and in a couple other places throughout the mausoleum, the caskets are placed in the crypts horizontally. They’re called couch crypts.
And there are other touches around the mausoleum, which is what Talmadge Garrison of Dawsonville noticed.
After Garrison’s wife, Jeannine, died in 2017, she was buried in a special section at Memorial Park for veterans and their spouses. Talmadge was to be buried beside her one day. But as he visited the grave of his wife of 60 years, he saw the construction going on at the mausoleum.
“I’d never been in one,” Talmadge, 86, said of the mausoleum. “I didn’t know what it was, but I just thought it would be a nice place for her body. It would be out of the cold and under protection and that’s what I wanted for her.”
Jeannine’s remains were among the first to be entombed in the mausoleum and Talmadge is happy she’s in a beautiful and safe place. It’s also an air-conditioned space in the summer and heated during the winter.
“I really liked the marble,” Talmadge said. “It’s just nice with all the chandeliers and the black and gold marble … I just really liked it.”
Before Jeannine died, they visited the burial plots they had purchased for themselves when their children were born. Talmadge remembers his wife saying she’d be happy with that, but now, he visits her at the mausoleum.
“I thought she’d be happy there too,” Talmadge said. “I just wanted the best thing for her.”
That was Frost’s goal, to give the people of Gainesville, Hall County and beyond a welcoming place for their relatives and themselves when the time comes.
“Gainesville has been good to me,” Frost said. “It's the most giving town I've ever known. People are generous, they're kind, they're considerate and there’s just not a greater place to live other than Gainesville.”
He said he’s owned as many as 100 cemeteries from Montana to the South Carolina coast, but he’d never trade what he’s built in Gainesville.
“I'm a lucky man,” Frost said. “God has blessed me, so why not give it back?”