VIEWS: 6 PAGES: 1 POSTED ON: 11/29/2009
Roses, clasped hands and cro osses traditionally adorn headstones in cemeteries bu that may be changing ut — a new carving reques a Logan headstone st company received was fo a marijuana leaf. for “We were like, ‘Sure, if you want it forever, because granite lasts forever,’” said Jeannette Bell, headstone designer at Brown Monument and Vault Co. in Logan. A new trend for cemetery headstones is to personalize them, even if a marijuana leaf is what the customer wants. Headstones have come far during the last century. In Clarkston Cemetery, a small slab of concrete laid years ago only reads “Baby” in large letters — no name or date is given. Now, headstones are more elaborate and personalized. In Logan Cemetery, a sculpted bed is the resting place for a young boy. Another grave in Logan Cemetery shows a family shield etched onto the headstone. During the past 10 years that Bell has worked at Brown Monument, the personalizing has changed. When Bell’s grandfather worked at Brown rubbery and has adhesive on the back so it’s easy to apply to granite. Once the stencil is printed, Bell said it is taken into the workshop where up to seven headstones can be worked on at a time. Each headstone rests on what looks like part of an assembly line roller. The headstones are picked up and moved by a chain lift installed on the ceiling for easy moving. The workers lie the stencil down onto a granite headstone, making sure it’s firmly in place. To create the area that shows names of the deceased, the granite is hit with dark stone balls about one-eighth the size of a pin head. This process turns the stone the lightest color possible, sometimes turning it white. Sandblasting comes next: Basically, the stone is hit with a powder to make the stencil stand out. Once the engraving is done, the headstone is taken to a In mem ... mory cozy place to visit. Creating one headston can take about ne two days depending on h much detail how a customer wants, Bell s said. Blocks of granite are ordered from places such as m India, Vermont, China, M Minnesota and Canada and can take up to three months to be delivered. Up to 70 pieces of gran0 ite make up one order. T stones come The polished and ready to go Shipping them o. is almost as much as buy ying them, Bell said, so the number of pi ieces can differ in an order, depending on h much Brown how Monument and Vault Co ompany wants to spend at one time. Piles of blank headston rest all nes around the shop at Brow Monument. wn Keeping a well-stocked inventory comes in handy during the wint months when ter headstones aren’t norma placed in ally cemeteries because of th frozen ground. he But having so many gran blocks in nite stock means headstones can still be worked on during the wi inter. Once a headstone is pi icked by a customer, Bell said she goes to work on her s computer to design the s stencil on a program similar to AutoCad When finished, d. the stencil is sent to a cu utter printer where a tiny Xacto knife autom matically cuts the pattern into a paper — th thin paper is he Headstones becoming pe ersonal as loved ones Monument, the LDS Temple was the most popular religious symbol to put on a headstone. Although many headstones still show LDS temples, more people are putting hobbies (like fishing or snowmobiling) on their grave marker. Old-style epitaphs (usually poems) are even dying out and more people are requesting scriptures, nature scenes, religious symbols or more personalized phrases to mark their final resting place. Bell said a grave in Logan Cemetery has the following epitaph: “Two things I love most: Good horses and beautiful women, and when I die I hope they tan this old hide of mine and make it into a ladies riding saddle, so I can rest in peace between the two things I love most.” According to a document at Utah State University Special Collections and Archives, a headstone in River View Cemetery has “Miss USU 1975” carved into the granite — just another example of personalization. Bell said favorite pictures of the deceased can be placed on faces of headstones — the picture is copied onto porcelain for safe-keeping then placed into a carved-out groove on the headstone. Some customers even install tiny yard lights around the grave, making it a more room where it gets washed. Then it’s picked up by a lift and placed on a table where employee Lynn Reeder takes over. He pours concrete around the headstone, making a sturdy base. At this point, Bell said the headstone and base can weigh about 500 pounds. “You don’t want to drop them on your toes,” Bell said. The concrete takes about two days to set and dry. On a recent afternoon, 12 completed headstones and bases rest on the workshop floor. These still have time to be installed before the ground freezes — at least a few more weeks. Bell said she wants a simple, tall, oldfashioned type of headstone to mark her final resting place. Eventually she will design it but there’s no hurry, Bell said. It’s common, however, for customers to design and install their headstones before leaving this world — that way, remaining family members don’t have to worry about it. Choosing a headstone is usually the last thing a grieving family does. But Bell said it’s not necessarily a sad business. “Getting through that last step with them is an honor,” she said. “We just listen. Sometimes we sit and cry with them.” To see unique headstones in Logan Cemetery, visit www.loganutah.org/ parks_and_rec/cemetery/ for a historical cemetery tour guide. A sampling: Clockwise from above: 1. Aaron Bell removes pieces of the stencil as he carves a headstone at Brown Monument. 2. A headstone designed and created by Brown Monument and Vault Co. is seen in the Logan Cemetery. 3. Jeannette Bell looks over a stencil as she explains the carving process. 4. Lynn Reeder prepares the cement bases of the headstones at Brown Monument on Tuesday. * Story by Brittny Goodsell Jones * * Photos by Meegan M. Reid * May Swenson was a local poet of national acclaim. A bench etched with stanzas from her poems marks this grave. This child’s grave marker demonstrates how sandblasting techniques allow for individuality and detail in contemporary stones. The Wiebe stone shows how natural forms from the surrounding environment can be blended with traditional carving techniques.
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