‘Stories in Stone’
During our recent icy weather, with my work at a local thrift store canceled, I spent time putting together the scrapbook of my September bus trip to Vermont.
One of our stops on the trip was at Rock of Ages Quarry in Graniteville, an unincorporated village in Barre, Vermont. Most of the granite used in headstones across the United States comes from this area, and the village calls itself the Granite Capital of the World. Our bus picked up a tour guide, Cynthia, and then wound it’s way up a steep hill to a spot overlooking the Smith Quarry, about 600 feet deep.
This quarry has been mined since the 1800s, but still more than 99 percent of the granite ever there has not been removed.
With the Green Mountains as our backdrop, Cynthia said that the 25 quarry workers were proud of their work, knowing that what they removed would be turned into something that would commemorate human life and the human spirit. The stones would be painstakingly carved and etched to tell an individual’s story. The final product, she said, no matter what it depicts, “will evoke an emotion.”
Nearby, Hope Cemetery acts as a museum of granite works of art, from engravings to statuary. Early on, the stonecarvers created with hammers and chisels; today’s artists use pneumatic tools.
A half-size granite racecar with the number 61 etched on it commemorates local racecar driver Joey Laquerre Jr.
A 3-D soccer ball marks the final resting place of a 13-year-old, and a granite easy chair marks another grave.
The Halvosas were a middle-age couple who enjoyed reading in bed together. When Mrs. Halvosa died, her widower had her monument shaped as a bed; he was known to sit on the side of that bed and read to her.
Rock of Ages is responsible for the guitar that marks the final resting place of musician Les Paul in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and also created the 9/11 Memorial Glade that stands in lower Manhattan.
It only makes sense that the tagline of Rock of Ages is “Stories in Stone.”