Monuments allow those who remain, and who come after, to reflect on who someone was.
Memorial stones and monuments also may reflect the personal interests of the deceased.
Local monument companies say creating sculpture in the granite, as well as etchings as varied as the individual, are increasingly requested.
With cremations becoming a more popular option, monuments that inter the cremains are being requested, local businesses say.
For cremated remains, monuments now are created to hold two cremains on a single grave, said Tim Welly, owner of Wellys Monument Company, 2873 S. SR 100. They also can be interred in a monument; either with a core in it to accept them or columns created to house two or more cremated remains.
"There will be two names on the monument, yet it only fits a single grave," Welly said. "So you have to be creative to design a monument that's appealing."
Welly said his company works with three computer programs to do the design work that is sent to the manufacturer. He said there are no limitations on the shape that can be created.
Using a computer aided drafting program, Welly said he draws the design, then e-mails it to the manufacturer.
"There is zero tolerance to the specifications, it has to be exactly like I draw it," Welly said. "The layouts, the lettering, everything used to be handset, now everything is on a computer program. We provide the family with a color rendering of the monument."
The popularity of particular granite colors also has changed over the years.
"It used to be blacks, but now the spectrum is so large so there is no predominant color," Welly said. "Black is still very popular, but it is not the most popular. Whether it is a hand etching or mechanical, black granite is used for the most etchings."
Welly said he employs an artist who creates hand etchings. One of the most elaborate that they have done was a medieval scene, complete with a maiden being rescued from dragons by a knight. Designs have evolved into whatever the family or individual desires, rather than the traditional flowers, praying hands or crosses.
As technology gets better, many companies say they may switch to using lasers to do the etchings. Another new development is the impact engraver, which uses a diamond stylus to hit the stone.
"It mimics the hand etching rather than the laser that actually burns the stone," Welly said.
Chris Wilson, owner/operator of Fostoria Monument, 701 Van Buren St., Fostoria, said he started receiving requests for etchings on memorials in the early 1980s. The business has an artist, Teresa Kummerer, who has done the etchings by hand for the past 10 years. Etchings done by hand provide detail a laser just can't do, Wilson said.
"Using laser machines changes something in the picture," he explained. "When the artist does it by hand, they add those special touches. Using a laser machine creates voids in the image. And a laser can only be done on a darker stone, it's not going to show up otherwise."
Granite is the best material that can be used for monuments in terms of durability as well, Wilson said. Many of the older stones were made of marble, and although many people say they like the aesthetics of the marble, he said the media deteriorates quickly. Lettering becomes difficult to read and may need to be re-sandblasted and cut to repair.
Whether marble, granite, columns or bronze plaques, and even the nature of the image, much depends on the cemetery that is used.
"Some specify the width, height, thickness and colors," Wilson said. "Some have to have religious motifs. Some have to be flat, so they only allow bronze plaques."
Monument choice is all a matter of a family's preference, he added, and economics play a part. Welly agreed, noting half of his sales are pre-need, the other half, when a family member is deceased.
"We don't see as much pre-need sales as we used to," Wilson said. "Some have dialed back, they may upgrade later." Monuments can be upgraded at a later date; Wilson said his company buys back monuments. Some of those can be sanded down and re-used for indigent memorials.
Welly's and Fostoria Monument acknowledged the importance of having a memorial stone.
"It's a place to go," Wilson said. "It's about knowing someone has a place."