Campus columbarium and memorial garden provide a quiet space for reflection

August 27, 2021


For Phil Rohrbach, a retired accounting professor from the University of Richmond, coming back to campus is a spiritual experience. His late wife, Camilla Beck Rohrbach, is inurned in the University Columbarium, next to the Cannon Memorial Chapel.

“I have found since Camilla’s passing that I am drawn to the Memorial Garden on the days I am in Richmond,” Rohrbach said. “Words cannot describe the feeling of closeness to her that I experience in the serenity of the beautiful space and ability to touch her name on the outside wall of the Cannon Chapel where she rests.”

The Columbarium was established in 2002 as a final resting place for the ashes of many members of the University community. The serpentine walls surround a fountain and a garden where ashes can be scattered.   

Those hustling from Gottwald to Tyler Haynes Commons might miss the large iron gates just next to the chapel. Taking a step inside quickly quiets the sound of campus, and exposes a serene atmosphere.

“Passing by the memorial garden and the columbarium is a reminder that there have been those who have come before us, upon whose shoulders we stand,” said University Chaplain Craig Kocher.

There are 3,000 niches in the Columbarium where students, alumni, staff, faculty, and their loved ones can be inurned forever. Pillars of the Richmond community, including Dr. E. Bruce Heilman and his wife, Betty Dobbins Heilman, are found within the walls.

“It can be spiritually healthy to remember that life is a gift,” Kocher said. “And we need to make the best out of the time that we’ve been given.”