In 1940, W.D. Beck Jr., a member of the family who owned Beck Casket Company, started Beck’s Ozark Memorial Company in Carthage, Mo.
In 1941, he built a very modern building at the corner of West Chestnut and Baker Boulevard where he engraved and sold monuments. In the late 1940s/early 1950s he sold the company to Noble Huggins who changed the name to West Chestnut Monument.
Current owner Pat Snyder was raised around Carthage and grew up in the farming community, raising pigs, hauling hay and picking up rocks. In 1979, at the age of 16, he started working at Park Cemetery on the grounds crew mowing, setting monuments, helping with funerals, and digging graves. He later worked at Park Cemetery Monument Shop and managed it until 1990. Charlie and Pat Potter, whom Pat had worked for on the farm for several years, bought West Chestnut Monument Company in February 1990 in hopes of Pat purchasing it when he was able. In January 1993, Pat and his wife Marcia bought the company and have now owned the shop nearly 27 years.
There have been a lot of changes in the monument industry since Pat began 41 years ago. The first would be the advancement in technology. Monument mechanics used to recreate the stone with pencils, rulers and straight edges creating different designs. The letters were hand cut into the stencil with an x-acto knife and a press was used to hand stamp designs.
“In 1998, we purchased a computer program that allowed for the computer to cut the stencil, which made the process more accurate and efficient. Believe it or not that has helped the industry a lot” Pat said. “What we can do now in two hours used to take all day or longer.”
The sandblaster Pat uses is 70 to 80 years old and has a manual mixing chamber. Until the end of the 1930s almost everything was done by hand, but by 1960 most of the work was done with a sandblaster.
Glancing at the records, he said a single flat marker made by Carthage Marble in 1940 sold for $16 but would now cost nearly $520 plus tax/setting fees. An upright mahogany monument sold for $105 would today start at $1,400.
The company has been in continuous operation longer than any monument shop in the four-state area. In the mid- to late-1970s the original building was torn down because of deterioration and a new one built, which still stands as the front office and part of the shop of the building today. Additions were also done in 1995 and 2000, and Pat and Marica are adding more office area.
“We are the little hometown shop, ma and pa place that you can sit down with the owner or the owner’s son or daughter-in-law, and know who’s making your monument and know you’re going to have a good job done.”
All four of Pat and Marica’s children grew up playing and working at the shop engraving little rocks. When the kids were young, before vacation each year, they would sell lemonade and cookies in front of the shop, making about $15. One year, Pat suggested they sell their little designed rocks they were always engraving in the shop. Word got out and before their vacation to Colorado that year the kids had sold more than $1,000 worth of engraved rocks.
“That was crazy,” Pat said. “That is what actually started the engraved rocks and has since been a large part of our business.”
Some large, memorable projects the shop has completed include engraving a 100-foot long wall that the lettering spanned over 45 feet at the U.S. Courthouse in Jefferson City, Mo. and the Vietnam Veteran Memorial located in Central Park in Carthage, where they engraved 1,251 names of the Missouri casualties. The shop continues to offer monument stones and installation along with sandblasting, engraving and name/design rocks.
“The monument shop is a very unique business that people often don’t think about until they need it” Pat said.
One of his favorite memories was from 2019 when a customer came into the shop and needed the date hand carved on their father’s stone after his passing. Pat found out who had originally carved the stone and invited him to the shop. Don Helms had made the last monument at Carthage Marble and is the last Carthage Marble hand carver still alive. Pat retrieved the stone and brought it back to the shop where Don used his original tools and spent about two weeks engraving the date for the family. Pat said after Don was finished, he handed over his tools as it was the very last stone to be hand carved.
Pat finds it neat the work he does will be around for years to come for his grandkids to see. When it’s time to retire, he said their son Levi and wife M’lynne, and their daughter Jennie Tamerius will continue the family business, “Although they’ll probably have to wheel me out in a wheelchair.”