When a loved one dies, there are many things to consider, not the least of which is a marker to honor his or her final resting place. Susie and Donny "Flip" Bobenrieth, the new owners of St. Marys Monuments, help guide people through the process of choosing a fitting memorial that suits individual tastes and budgets.
"We take care of it from beginning to end," Donny said.
The Bobenrieths took over the business from longtime friends Charlie and Linda Emmert, who had owned St. Marys Monuments for the past 20 years. Having decided they wanted to retire from the business and pursue other activities, they broached the idea of transitioning ownership to the Bobenrieths.
Susie had been looking for employment outside the home after being a stay-at-home mom for nine years. Now that the youngest of her three boys would be in kindergarten, she wanted to return to the workforce, yet still be accessible to her kids. She felt the monument business would provide her with both options.
"This way, I'm still able to be home with the boys, if need be," Susie said.
After talking it over, Susie and Donny decided they were interested and began making the necessary preparations. They worked with the Emmerts to learn the various aspects of the monument business. Over the summer, they built an addition to their garage that serves as the St. Marys Monuments showroom, which contains a seating area for customers, computer and other office equipment and physical examples of some of the stones that can be ordered. St. Marys Monuments, one of only two monument businesses in the county, officially opened at its new location at 148 Timberline Rd. on Nov. 13. The business is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays and evenings by appointment; closed on Sundays; and can be reached at 814-834-9848. The showroom's space is accessible for people with disabilities and also has a restroom.
The Bobenrieths have many examples of monuments from which to choose; in addition to the freestanding stones in the showroom, they also have a design book with a much wider variety of samples. All of the stones are made out of granite but can differ according to size, shape and finish. St. Marys Monuments also provides date-cutting and cleaning services for existing stones, and works with the county's veterans' affairs office to lay in veterans' markers.
Susie said a popular practice is to have symbols, like a rose or cross, or an image depicting a person's hobby or interest, lasered or sandblasted onto the stone in addition to traditional items like names and dates.
"You can put all types of special symbols on the stones that act as a real tribute to that person - even their image," Susie said.
After families have chosen what they want, the order is sent to a supplier. When the stones are finished being cut and engraved, the Bobenrieths pick them up and Donny goes to work placing them at the grave or memorial site. In order to ensure that the marker will remain in place permanently, he needs to level the area and pour a concrete footer. He also completes any necessary re-leveling and replanting at the site. Although memorials can be ordered at any time, stones can only be set when the ground in the area is not frozen, generally between April and early November.