Archive for Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Tonganoxie couple specialize in building lasting monuments

July 13, 2005

Bill Jones spent nearly three hours at his home computer designing a butterfly for a woman's young daughter who died in an automobile accident.

He wanted the butterfly to perfectly match the design the mother had in mind.

Jones said he never likes having to design a child's headstone, but it's something he has to do for his wife's business, Eagle Memorials, which makes customized headstones and other monuments.

Jones said it is hard not to get emotionally involved in the situation, but he has to remind himself business is business.

"Whether it's your child or any child, you want to get attached," he said. "But you don't want to, you can't."

From the rock-type requested to any kind of design, every monument from Eagle Memorials is custom-built.

Besides specializing in carving headstones, the ability to custom design those headstones is what makes Jan Jones' 4-year-old business unique.

Most of the business' pre-cut, gray granite stones come from Elberton, Ga., but upon request, the Joneses also have ordered stones from all around the world, including China, India and Japan.

Funeral homes, which are memorial businesses' primary competitors, only provide customers with designs selected from a catalog, Bill said. The Joneses don't limit themselves to what can be found in a funeral home catalog.

"We sell anything you find in a cemetery," Jan said.

The company also makes commemorative monuments, benches and fence post markers, such as a stone with a family name outside its home.

All of which can be custom-designed.

"You get something brand-new," Bill said. "Something nobody else has got."

And no design is far-fetched or too complicated for Jan to place on a headstone or monument. She said she would often hire an artist from Kansas City to draw detailed designs right on the stone.

For example, an artist drew the state seal for a monument built for the Leavenworth County's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 47.

Custom designing headstones could get even more creative than just using graphic and artistic designs, Bill said.

Bill is working on a headstone for a man who grew up in Texas, but moved to Kansas a few years before he died. The man's widow wanted his metal "state of Texas" belt buckle placed at the top of the stone.

"That'll be a first," Jan said. "But it was a request."

Depending on the size and color of the stone, prices can range from $300 to $8,000. The designs pretty much run the same price, Bill said.

The design is printed on a thick rubber sheet with a sticky backing.

Next, the sheet is centered and sealed on the stone. Then each panel -- a graphic element's basic outline -- is cut out. Then a momentarily light sandblast whitens, or frosts, the open areas.

After those areas have been frosted, the panels are placed back on the stone. Each graphic element is finely cut to reveal its details, such as individual flower petals.

Finally, the designs are deeply ingrained in the stone by getting sandblasted at 100 pounds per square inch. This final sandblast could take up to 40 minutes, Bill said.

Jan opened a shop along Highway 24-40 about four months ago. But it is just there to advertise Eagle Memorials, and for customers to look at various rocks on display, Jan said. She and her husband create the monuments outside their house at 16051 222nd St.

"We don't really sit up there because we need to be here to do our jobs," Jan said.

The Joneses have lived in Tonganoxie for 14 years, but Eagle Memorials has only existed for nearly four years.

Bill Jones said he was too young to retire when he sold his Kansas City business, Eagle Auto Stripping, six years ago. But the 49-year-old wanted to start a new business to continue his lifelong work in sandblasting. However, Jan owns and operates Eagle Memorials. Bill mainly focuses on the sandblasting machine. He also operates a shop that sandblasts paint off metal objects, including cars and patio furniture.

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