What purpose does a memorial serve?

     When I first started Lewis County Monuments in 1991 I had no idea why we place gravestones on a grave plot.  Oh I knew that they had your loved ones information on them with some art work but I did not understand the real purpose.  As I have watched people visiting their loved ones final resting place over the past 23 years I have observed some things.
:  Many people talk to their loved one.
:  Many pray, often silent prayer.
:  Some sit on the ground and seem to meditate.
:  Often a finger or hand can be seen tracing the name on the stone.
:  Some are replacing flowers in a vase.
:  Some are gardening the flowers they planted before Memorial day.
:  Some are their to observe the birthday of their departed loved one.
:  Major holidays are often observed with a wreath or a fitting decoration being placed.
:  Tiny rocks are placed on top of the tomb stone or the base of the tomb stone to mark the visitation, also people will leave a
    penny to commemorate the visit .
:   Some will share a Beer and pour out one over the grave or leave an unopened can or bottle at the grave
:  Often a trinket or ceramic animal is placed on a child’s grave.
I’m sure the list is as long as there are people but these are the things that stick in my brain.  So WHY?  Why do we do these little things for someone who is gone?   My opinion is we are looking for healing.  My conclusion is that what we are “doing for” our departed loved one is really for our healing.  When we loose someone we find ourselves in pain.  I’m told the pain never completely goes away but that it subsides and we are better able to deal with it over time. The many things we do at the final resting place of our loved one are all a part of the path of healing that we need to walk down.  We hurt because we love. What we love and loose we grieve for.  It is natural.  Grieving is a part of loving.  So when you consider purchasing a memorial the main thing to consider is what will honor the memory of your loved one.  When pre-purchasing your own memorial it should reflect your life and speak of things that tell your story, or a message you want to tell the world. What ever your situation a grave stone is a tool for healing, let it work for you.
For North Country Memorials Inc.    Curt


Spring is here

Spring is just around the corner which means cemetery’s will be opening back up and outside work will commence. It’s time to start thinking about what flowers you want to put on your loved ones grave.

Does Color Matter? Gravestone Tip of the week


To answer the title question in a word, no. It only matters if it matters to you.

Now, having said that, there are some considerations. First, do not confuse color with quality. We will talk about quality in a future blog but for now let’s talk color. The first question to ask is, How will a particular color contrast with the lettering? Some colors do not contrast well with lettering. It is important that your color choice contrasts well with lettering. We try to only carry colors that make a great contrast. In the past we have had customers insist on a certain color that does not work well and afterward have been unhappy.

Secondly, if you are shopping online and find a color that you really like, don’t get your heart set on it. Just because it looks good in a pic, please realize that it may have been enhanced with paint. At North Country Memorials, Inc., we use only colors that we have found to contrast well.

Some colors fade. True or False? …….. circle one. Lets think about it. Everything under the sun fades. In time your gravestone will fade. You may notice a change in the first 5 years but after that, in my experience the change is so gradual that you may not notice it at all. We have found that many of Irish decent like green, and ask for it. We do not recommend it at all as it turns brown within the first ten years. Blacks, grays and many reds seem to hold their color better. That does not mean that they do not fade; it just means they will take longer for you to see a difference. If a monument is not in the direct sunlight, but rather under a tree, they will hold their color longer. In the southern states where there is more sunshine than where I live in northern New York, you will see memorials fade more quickly. Constant wind, and freezing and thawing temperatures in the winter will cause the grave stone to break down quicker.

You may be thinking, what colors are available that we recommend? Here is my incomplete list, starting with the most common. Gray (three shades), Mt. Rose, Jet Black, Mist Black, Galaxy Black, India Red, Blue Pearl, Mahogany (brown) and Pink name only a few. To get a more complete list go to our website.

So, when shopping don’t be afraid to ask questions and be informed .

Affording A Mausoleum

Affording a Mausoleum
          “One thing I’ll never be able to afford is a mausoleum when I die.  Those are for the wealthy” Tom said to his longtime friend over a steaming cup of Joe at the local dinner.  They had met every morning on the square in the upstate NY city of Watertown to chat and sip, slowly easing into their day.  Their wife’s would chide them from time to time about the early morning hours wasted at the dinner.  However deep down they knew it was time well spent for two old duffers who had worked hard all their lives to provide for their families.  Tom and Harvey had formed their relationship way back attending school in the North Country’s small town of Clayton.  Later while Tom got his bachelors at Potsdam and Harvey’s higher education came slowly at Canton they eventually were reacquainted by their jobs at Air Break of Watertown.  35 years later the rest is history as they say.  While they both enjoyed their jobs they had looked forward to retirement and having nothing to do.  Well that soon wore off and the idea of facing endless “honey do” lists day after day had worn thin.  Oh they still were willing to do something’s around the house but they needed to get out and “have man time”.  That was the catalyst that prompted the phone call a few years back.  “Hey Tom what ya doing”? Harvey said early one morning.  “Oh not much, maybe knock a few thing off the honey do list today”.  Harvey put forth his offer, “Hey listen, how would you like to meet me tomorrow morning for coffee on the square at the dinner”? “Sounds great, what time?” Tom responded trying to hold back the excitement in His voice.  And so they tradition started and here they were deep into a discussion about the end of life and who was planning what.  “Those things must cost a pretty mint” Harvey spouted, shaking his shaggy grey top.  “We should ask Dave, he worked for Jackson Memorials for years didn’t he? Tom mused.  The morning wore on and soon the cups were completely empty and the sun was gaining strength.  “Time to go” Harvey growled tossing a fiver on the counter covering both cups, Tom’s turn would come tomorrow.  
          Over the years the subject of preparing for the inevitable would surface and as per usual the subject would bother Harvey enough that he would soon find a need to cut out early.  Tom knew this and along with prodding by Harvey’s lovely bride of 50 years he would try to engage his ole buddy on the subject.  “I’ll let my kids take care of it” he would say then turn the conversation to the “Cuse” and their latest win or defeat.  Once on a rare occasion he mention his parents being buried in Brookside just south of Watertown, and that he would likely end up there somewhere.  Once Tom decided to wade in and he asked the question “Do you have things paid for yet?” to which Harvey again pushed the idea off to His family taking care of it.  Tom and his wife Mary had been talking seriously talking about the subject.  For Tom the subject came easier to talk about.   His parents had both passed when He was in his late forty’s and He had taken care of all the arrangements.  He had vowed that he would make a plan, but he had ignored it one short year at a time till here he was  in his early 70’s and nothing had been done.  Lately they had talked about it and Mary had voiced her opinions and reservations of being buried in the ground.  Tom leaned toward simply being cremated but still liked the idea of a memorial of some kind.  He didn’t want to part this old world without leaving a trace of his footprint on this earth.  Surely his life had stood for something He had said in one of their lengthy discussions. 
     Mary secretly hated the idea of her body being placed in the ground and longed for a mausoleum.   She was sure cost was prohibitive and placement in Glenwood, a Catholic Cemetery just down the road from Brookside was a subject she was uneducated about. 
          On a late summer Friday morning as the guys slid into their booth in the corner Tom was primed as he and Mary had been talking the past week and had actually decided to press in and explore the cost of burial and monuments.  As the steaming cups were set on the table and sugar and cream was added Tom took the plunge.   “So Harv I wanna run something by ya”.  Harvey shot an inquisitive Tom way a ear cocked to better hear.  “I know this is not your favorite subject but I want you to be a listening ear for me, now hear me out, OK?”  Harvey nodded, it was the least he could do for his old buddy who had listened to his stuff many times over the years.  “Mary and I have decided to buy our grave plots and she has informed me she does NOT want to be put in the ground.”  “Arg” Harvy groaned as Tom put up His knurled hands and said “Hear me out ole buddy; I need an outside ear and opinion”.  Harvey pushed back and dropped his shoulders in resignation.  “Ok” he managed.  Tom pushed on. “Remember when you said you could never afford a mausoleum and that they were only for the wealthy”? What did you mean by that?  “Well I have nothing against them, I just figure they must cost thousands and with my retirement there’s no way I could do it.  I’ll be lucky to get an old field stone over my head when I pass.  And I don’t give a care anyway.   Burry me on the back forty and forget about me.”  Tom smiled; he knew that under that tough exterior was an old softie.  He had seen the tears at Harv’s daughter’s wedding and when the first granddaughter came along the money and time spent was unparalleled by any standards Harvey had displayed up to that time.  “Well I wouldn’t want you to think I was trying to show off if I ended up in a granite building.  I sure hope you will come visit me from time to time.”  Tom quietly said.  “Oh no problems there old buddy, why I’ll even bring you a cup of Joe some morning just for old times’ sake.”  Harvey barely covered his smile.  “Well I’m going this morning to check it out and I sure would like a little support, ya want to ride along”?  Tom knew it would be a cold day before that would happen.  “Na I’ve got to whack some weeds out back, Joan’s orders”. He growled.  Tom grinned as they parted that day, he knew Harv would avoid getting anywhere near that monument shop, as if it might speed up the unavoidable. 
       Tom found the “Memorial” store or whatever they called Tombstone places these days. He maneuvered his old rusty pick up on to the lot.  He really had wanted to replace it but $40,000 seemed like a small fortune.  Not that he could not pay cash if he needed to but He and Mary were on a fixed income and no telling how long or how sick at the end they might be, He had choose to not bring up the idea of replacing the truck, to Mary.  He slapped the shifter in park and placed his comfy leather work shoes on the pavement in front of a large display of markers.  Off to the side he saw a two person mausoleum and tried to not look to obvious as to his intentions.  He hated pushy salesmen and didn’t want to be sold a bill of goods but rather He hoped to take his time.  Any way he was not going to buy today without the love of his life beside him.   As he poked around hoping to avoid being attacked by a hungry salesmen he saw the front door open and a smiling face turn his way.  After a firm hand shake and introductions the questions he had hoped to avoid started.  Where are you going to be buried, is it just you or are you married? “Is your spouse still living?
     I have to ask, I’m sorry” said the friendly young man.  His smile seemed genuine but “hey you never know with salesmen” Tom thought.  As they walked among the upright monuments they looked at the many colors and shapes, Tom directed his attention to the black two crypt mausoleum in the rear.  “I’ll bet that costs a pretty penny” he chuckled as if he could never be interested in something that expensive.  “Well they are a bit more but they’re still more affordable than you may think.”  “Well how much does this one run”? Tom asked, turning his head the other way trying not to act very interested.  The young salesmen, not wanting to scare a potential mausoleum customer away, turned following Tom’s gaze toward the parking lot where his old pickup was parked.  “Well” he started, “it costs less than it would to replace your old pickup there.”  Tom’s head made a slight jerk toward the young man who had just captured his attention.  “How could that be” He thought, He had imagined it would be so much more.  Tom’s eyes searched the salesmen’s face looking for the catch, trying to read the eyes of the man he might write a large check to. “Have you shopped for mausoleums before” the salesmen put forth.  “Naw I never been in a memorial shop before, its not like you make these purchases every day you know.” Tom offered.  “Well lets go inside and we can look at a brochure” The young man turned and led the way.  Over the next half hour things like color, finish, style and price were covered.  As Tom turned to head out the door He thanked the salesman He now knew as Phil.  They had made an apt. for then next Monday afternoon when Tom and Mary would come in when they had the afternoon free with no pressures to distract them.  As Toms trusty pickup turned west of the city for the 10 mile drive home he revisited some of the information He had just been fed.  Mausoleum’s were much more affordable than he thought.  For the price of the average new car in 2014 he could have one set in the cemetery.  The art work and inscriptions were not extremely important to Him, but he knew Mary would want his opinion also.  What they would have inscribed should reflect their lives Phil the salesman had said.  The possibility of a fine art etching that was totally personalized appealed to Tom because He just knew that Mary would love the idea, that her love of art could be reflected forever on their memorial.
    As he turned left on the final stretch home he chuckled at the thought of Harvey someday having to go through this process.  There was no way on Gods green earth Harvey would want to spend the time and effort to pick out a mausoleum.  His tires crunched down the Oak lined driveway that he had been traveling down for the past 50 plus years.  Here they were at the time of life thinking of choosing a final resting place, the thought of losing Mary or leaving her behind was something he’d rather not think about, but in a weird sort of way it brought Him s sense of comfort knowing that if he went first that she would have one less thing to deal with at the time of great emotion.  As the noisy screen door banged shut behind Him Mary was walking toward Him wiping her damp hands on the towel that hung at her side.  The smell of fresh cookies wafted through the air of the log cabin he had built in the late 90’s just prior to his retirement.  As a chilled glass of whole milk chased down His second warm cookie he spilled out all the info he had gathered that morning at the monument company.  Together they put down their ideas on paper and slowly what had lay deep in their minds, began to take shape on paper.  Wedding rings, children’s names and dates of birth were important to the elder couple.  “It’s kind of fun” Mary mused as they sat at one point deep in thought.  “What do you mean”? Tom responded.  “Well, being able to choose what means most to me and not having to wonder after you pass what you would have wanted…..  I don’t know it just is comforting to its finally getting taking care of.  And thank you Tom fo doing this, I know it’s not your favorite thing but it makes me know again that you love me.  I feel cared for”.  “So Tom can what about the mausoleum. It’s really a lot of money.”  She worried out loud.  “Well honey it’s like this.  As I’ve thought about it if I replace my pickup I’ll spend way more on that than I would on the mausoleum.  Even if had that truck for over 20 years at some point it would wear out and need to be replaced.  A monument is forever, or at least as long as stones last”. He said with a grin.  “Oh my” Mary responded, “ I never thought of it that way, stones have been around for God only knows’ how long, and for sure everything we own will wear out at some point.”  Then Mary got down to brass tacks.  “ What about regular monuments compared to a Mausoleum”? She inquired.  “ The salesmen said they were $3500 and up  for a two person upright monument. So you could spend close to a quarter of the price of a mausoleum very easily”. Tom quoted from his memory as best he could remember.  As the afternoon wore on they called and made an appointment with the monument company.  It felt good to both of them to have the pressure of what they should do moved to what they were going to do.  They knew they could afford it and to get it taken care of just seemed wise. 
          A few short days after making their decision and placing an order Tom found himself again meeting Harvey for coffee.  He wondered what would his buddies reaction would be.  He didn’t have to wait long as the first thing Harv asked that morning was “So what’s new ole man”?  Tom paused and sipped from the steaming mug of fresh brew.  “Well we took the plunge” he baited Harvey and let the sentence drop.   Harvey paused just a second and took the bait.  “What”? He growled.  “We bought a mausoleum.” Tom chuckled.  “NO! Way!” Harvey exploded.  “You win the lottery or what?!!”  “Naw we just did it, we thought it over and with Mary being very adverse to being put in the ground, and me realizing that replacing my pickup would be more expensive and only last a few years compared to a memorial, helped me to agree to take the plunge.”  Tom explained. The two were soon lost in conversation about burial plots and of course bottom line cost of all that Tom and Mary had taken on.  Harvey’s questions helped Tom to realize that as hard as the idea of preparing for ones passing, it had been it really had all gone very smoothly. And the comfort and relief that he saw in Mary’s eyes made the sacrifice of putting off a new vehicle for a few years all worth it.   
          A few months had passed and the guys had missed getting together for a few weeks.  Harvey had gone on vacation with his lovely bride.  Early on a Monday morning as Tom eased into the booth the little dinner was abuzz with patron’s gulping down gallons of hot coffee.  Harvey nervously cleared his throat a couple of times.  Tom chuckled; he could tell His friend wanted to tell Him something important.  Besides the wives had talked and Tom knew Harvey was in discussions with his lovely lady about purchasing their plots and memorial.  He let His buddy stew for a while and then broke the silence. “So whats new Harv?  Why don’t you just spit it out?  I know you got something on your mind, I’d like to hear it………………………..

Green Granite not your best choice

Ah the luck of the Irish.

We sing about it, talk about and we celebrate it.  The Irish are a proud people, they come from strong stock with a fine heritage to be thankful for.  They are people of strong traditions. When I mention the color green, people cannot help but think of the Irish.  When it comes to headstones we are privileged to have numerous options.  We at North Country Memorials from time to time have the privilege of serving an Irishmen. They sometimes choose the Celtic Cross or they have it engraved on their Memorial.  Most often when asked what color they would like to have gravestone we are asked can we supply a green granite.  We answer is yes and no.  Can we get you a green, truly green headstone? Of course. Do we recommend it? We do not.  Heres why, everything under the sun will breakdown, fade, lighten up or darken.  Green granite over the course of a few short years will turn brown.  Below is a Green Granite that lasted just a few  short years as a green colored memorial.A picture is worth a thousand words as they say.  What we have learned over the past 23 years of being in the monument business is that colors fade when placed outside.  Most the fade is so slow you do not notice it.  Some headstones carry close to the orginal look for close to one hundred years.  So as much as we like green, while it is nice we just don’t recommend you use it outside.