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Thomas R. Hudson Jr.’s private family columbarium is the most ornate memorial at Blue Hill Cemetery in Braintree. Family members call it ‘‘The Inn.’’
Thomas R. Hudson Jr.’s private family columbarium is the most ornate memorial at Blue Hill Cemetery in Braintree. Family members call it ‘‘The Inn.’’ (Wendy Maeda/ Globe Staff)

A place to die for

Rich renewing pursuit of luxury afterlife, build private mausoleums

Email|Print| Text size + By Tania deLuzuriaga
Globe Staff / December 5, 2007

BRAINTREE - In designing his eternal resting place, Thomas R. Hudson Jr. wanted to spend his afterlife in much the same fashion he is spending this one: in luxury.

He didn't want to be covered in dirt, forgotten on a mantel, or stuck with the hoi polloi in a public mausoleum. Hudson, who has made a fortune running a Connecticut-based hedge fund called Pirate Capital, wanted to be with those closest to him, and like any patriarch, provide for generations to come. So he decided on the champagne of interment options: a private family columbarium.

Now perched on a grassy hillside at Blue Hill Cemetery, the 400-square-foot Roman Doric structure he ordered constructed of 450,000 pounds of Vermont granite features 17-foot high cathedral ceilings, brass doors, and a stained glass depiction of The Last Supper. Flanked by hand-carved stone lions and set amid shrubbery, it is the biggest, most ornate memorial in sight. Some say it may be the most elaborate to be built in a Boston-area cemetery since the industrial barons erected monuments to their wealth nearly a century ago. Family members jokingly call it "The Inn." (There's room for everybody.)

Private mausoleums and columbaria, for cremated remains, are enjoying a revival among the rich, local grave archivists and cemetery administrators say. They point to recent additions like one at Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett built by Somerville lawyer Frank Privitera Sr. featuring a stone gazebo and a crypt, another mausoleum that was completed this year at Blue Hill Cemetery, and one built this year in Newton Cemetery. But the massive Hudson edifice is the one generating buzz in cemetery circles.

"This is really taking it to the limit in terms of memorializing," said Gerald Ridge, Jr., vice president of Blue Hill Cemetery.

Hudson, 41, declined to tell the Globe what his final home cost. But industry experts said cemetery plots big enough for a structure like Hudson's and the cost of materials and craftsmanship very quickly make such projects run over $1 million.

The gray-granite structure dominates the landscape of the cemetery, where much of the 100 acres are devoted to more modest grave markers. The approximately 20 other mausoleums scattered in the cemetery, most of which were constructed in the early part of the century, are dwarfed by the latest addition.

"People are always asking" about Hudson's columbarium, Ridge said. "The regulars, they comment on it."

Hudson said he decided to build the columbarium after the unexpected death last year of his father, Thomas Hudson Sr., whose remains are now kept there. A lifelong Braintree resident who owned a local cleaning business, the elder Hudson hadn't made plans for his passing and "wouldn't have spent a dollar on flowers" for his funeral, said Thomas Hudson, the eldest son.

"I wanted to do something substantial," he said in a phone interview. "At the same time, I started thinking about my own mortality."

And, he had money. His Norwalk, Conn.-based hedge fund has made fortunes for him and investors buying stocks then battling management to drive up prices. He is known for outsized gestures, such as the life-size wooden pirate - complete with peg leg, hook, and eye patch - that stands outside Hudson offices in Norwalk and a tank of carnivorous South American fish on his trading floor, according to Bloomberg News.

Hudson grew up in Braintree with three younger siblings, who have also left. Hudson said he was drawn to the idea of returning to his hometown after his death and spending eternity nestled in a nook 6 feet above ground and surrounded by his loved ones.

"I did it first out of respect for my dad," he said. "And second, out of fear of where I might go."

Hudson's columbarium features 44 niches for cremated remains, each of which can hold a double urn so that husbands and wives can be kept together. With additional space for expansion of the structure and 10 feet of land on all sides for burials, Hudson estimates that as many as 200 people could come to rest in the family plot, "if you really want to max it out," he said.

Though his siblings had not thought much about their own deaths, Hudson's 24-year-old sister, Alison, said she immediately liked the idea.

"I like the fact that we'll all be able to be together," she said.

Hudson and his brother Richard have also set up a limited liability corporation to ensure that the care of the structure is covered into perpetuity.

"My dad ran a cleaning business," Richard Hudson said. "It's got to be kept clean."

Like a number of hedge fund managers, Hudson has had some negative press this year over declining performance, perhaps a reminder of the ephemeral nature of life. An edifice of granite could be among the only things that really lasts, said Brian Koziar, cemetery sales manager for Rock of Ages, the Vermont company that made Hudson's columbarium.

"The BMW, the house can be sold," Koziar said. "But this is going to be a permanent part of the cemetery for eternity."

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