Karen Smith of Cullis Memorials, Brookhaven, Pennsylvania.

Karen Smith of Cullis Memorials, Brookhaven, Pennsylvania.

Ordering a headstone usually begins with a visit to a local monument dealer.

The monument advisor will first ask which cemetery the stone will be going to.

Each cemetery has its own rules and regulations about:

  • what size stones are allowed,

  • which colors are allowed,

  • whether grave location coordinates must be added to the stone,

  • whether or not certain carvings or etchings or effects will be permitted on the stone...

...and they each have various different fees. Most common is a foundation fee to cover the cost of installing a concrete base, which the stone will eventually be placed on top of.

The next question the monument advisor will ask is if you have the grave location, such as the "section, range and lot number." This information will help the monument advisor determine what types and sizes of stones are allowed in the section you are buying a stone for.

If you do not have the section, range and lot number, then the monument advisor will call the cemetery and get this information.

Once it is clear what type and size stone is allowed, then the stone selection process begins. 

  • You determine the stone color.

  • You determine what exact wording and dates you want on the stone.

  • Then you pick a design.

At Cullis Memorials, you pay for half the cost of the stone up-front, along with a separate payment for the cemetery's foundation fee. (This fee will be forwarded to the cemetery, along with required paperwork from the monument dealer). 

Our partners in Vermont then create a draft of what the stone will look like.

 Tim, our draftsman in Vermont. He designs your stone, then makes the stencil which is used in the sandblasting process.

Tim, our draftsman in Vermont. He designs your stone, then makes the stencil which is used in the sandblasting process.

Typically a draft takes 2 weeks. Once it is ready, we either email it to you or you stop by the shop to review the draft. Three important things happen at this step:

  1. You ensure that everything is spelled correctly.

  2. You verify that the dates are correct.

  3. You determine whether the design is suitable or not.

If changes need to be made, then this is the time to make changes.

If everything is fine, then you approve the draft by signing it or by giving written approval by email. At this point the stone is sent into production with our partners in Vermont.

 Tim is printing out a stencil to be used in the production of a headstone.

Tim is printing out a stencil to be used in the production of a headstone.

There really is quite a lot involved in the making of a headstone.

First, the granite is extracted from the earth using a process that actually involves dynamite.

 One of the granite quarries in the Barre, Vermont area. Unusual fact... That water is 250 feet deep.

One of the granite quarries in the Barre, Vermont area. Unusual fact... That water is 250 feet deep.

Barre gray granite actually weighs 168 pounds per square foot. This quarry sells it in bulk to "sheds" like the one we work with in Barre.

Our partner takes large blocks of it, and then begins to process it.

 Giant saw cutting a block of granite into more manageable slabs.

Giant saw cutting a block of granite into more manageable slabs.

The slab is polished, then cut into the needed sizes...

 A slab of granite being polished. This is "French Creek Black." It came from Pennsylvania.

A slab of granite being polished. This is "French Creek Black." It came from Pennsylvania.

 This slab of granite is being lifted by a vacuum machine. They say it's not a good idea to stand under it, because if the power goes out, the slab will immediately crash to the ground.

This slab of granite is being lifted by a vacuum machine. They say it's not a good idea to stand under it, because if the power goes out, the slab will immediately crash to the ground.

 "Serp tops" being polished.

"Serp tops" being polished.

 The polishing machine's control panel. It looks complicated!

The polishing machine's control panel. It looks complicated!

 The worker in red is putting a "rock pitch" side on to the stone. This involves chipping away at it by hammer. It takes a lot of practice to get good at this.

The worker in red is putting a "rock pitch" side on to the stone. This involves chipping away at it by hammer. It takes a lot of practice to get good at this.

 Stones are being washed and inspected.

Stones are being washed and inspected.

After the stones have been cut, polished and inspected, then it's time to prepare them for sandblasting.

 Stencil has been applied to the stone. It is ready for sandblasting.

Stencil has been applied to the stone. It is ready for sandblasting.

 This is one of our stones, ready for sandblasting. It's black with a laser etching.

This is one of our stones, ready for sandblasting. It's black with a laser etching.

 Lying on the stone is the approved draft. Our partner is manufacturing the stone to our exact specifications.

Lying on the stone is the approved draft. Our partner is manufacturing the stone to our exact specifications.

 A finished stone, ready to be crated.

A finished stone, ready to be crated.

After the work is done, it goes through a final inspection process, then it is crated and prepared for shipment.

 The shipping department.

The shipping department.

During our busy times, we get a truck from Vermont once a week. Here is one of those trucks in our parking lot.

 Another load of finished headstones arriving at Cullis Memorials.

Another load of finished headstones arriving at Cullis Memorials.

After the truck arrives, we unload it with a forklift and use our in-house crane to position stones in our garage.

 Our regular driver, Jamie, checking the straps before lifting a load off the trailer.

Our regular driver, Jamie, checking the straps before lifting a load off the trailer.

 Jamie.

Jamie.

Above is Jamie, our regular driver. He brings the finished stones down from Vermont, and he is a real pro at it. On the day this photo was taken, it was probably the hottest day of the year, and the AC wasn't working in his truck.

 Since we have our own forklift, those old tires aren't necessary for us. Read below...

Since we have our own forklift, those old tires aren't necessary for us. Read below...

Side note: The granite drivers bring along old tires. Those are used for "crashing" the stones. If a monument dealer does not have a forklift, then the stones get pushed off the truck on to the tires. We do not allow crashing. 

* * *

After the granite is unloaded, we uncrate the stones and inspect them. We expect perfection from our partners, nothing less. This means we don't tolerate a single scratch.

Upon the stones passing our inspection, we call our customers and invite them to visit the shop to inspect their stone themselves.

At this point, if the stone is satisfactory, then the customer pays the balance and we put the stone "on the board" for stone setting... that is IF the foundation is in. 

 This is what a proper foundation looks like. It is a minimum of 2 feet deep in order to support the stone and prevent leaning of the stone, which can happen over time. The bigger the stone, the deeper the concrete.

This is what a proper foundation looks like. It is a minimum of 2 feet deep in order to support the stone and prevent leaning of the stone, which can happen over time. The bigger the stone, the deeper the concrete.

Sometimes we get the stones in before the foundation is in. If that's the case, then we press the cemetery to get THEIR job done. Ordinarily, after the stone arrives at our shop and the balance is paid, we have it set at the cemetery within 2 weeks.

 Tony and Eric, setting one of our stones. Granite is very heavy. It's dangerous work. One bad accident can end a stone setter's career.

Tony and Eric, setting one of our stones. Granite is very heavy. It's dangerous work. One bad accident can end a stone setter's career.

 This is Tony, our stone setter.

This is Tony, our stone setter.

 The crane truck used in setting our larger stones.

The crane truck used in setting our larger stones.

By the way, that's Tony above. He handles all of our stone setting, and he does a great job. A crane truck is used for setting our larger stones. It can lift up to 7500 pounds.

After the stone is set, we call our customer to let them know our work is done.

Typically, from the time an order is placed until the stone is set at the cemetery, the process takes about 3 months.

As you can see, a lot of hands touch each stone. Many different workers are involved. When you place a stone order through us, Cullis Memorials is the hub of all this activity. Let our experienced hands see it through.

If you're interested in ordering a headstone, please consider visiting our shop.

 Cullis Memorials, located in Brookhaven, PA has been in business since 1875.

Cullis Memorials, located in Brookhaven, PA has been in business since 1875.

Cullis Memorials is open:

  • Monday through Thursday 9:30 till 4:30

  • Friday 9:30 till 2:00

  • Saturday 9:30 till 1:00

Appointments can be made, or just walk in.

Cullis Memorials has been in business since 1875. We are known for fair dealing. Numerous funeral directors refer their customers to us. 

Contact: Cullis Memorials

Address: 

3525 Edgmont Avenue
Brookhaven, PA 19015

Phone: 610-876-9201
Email: CullisMem@verizon.net

We also do in-the-field inscription work with existing stones. So if you want to add a passing date to a headstone, or something like that, we can help.

 One of our inscription tradesmen, preparing a stencil for the World War 1 monument we made for the town of Brookhaven.

One of our inscription tradesmen, preparing a stencil for the World War 1 monument we made for the town of Brookhaven.

 Mike Moravetz.

Mike Moravetz.

Above: Mike Moravetz of the Cullis Family has assisted monument buyers for 18 years. He is regarded by many in the trade as an expert with local cemeteries. It's not unusual for funeral directors to seek his advice about various matters.