Log cabin for a grave marker

By WILLIAM F. AST III - HP Staff Writer Jul 6, 2013

BENTON TOWNSHIP - Bill Cooper has turned out some unusual grave markers during his years at St. Joe Monument Works in Benton Township, but his latest creation ranks among the most unique.

It's a 4-foot-square log cabin. He hewed the stone from granite, and estimates it weighs at least "a couple or three tons."

"It was hard, old-time stone cutting," Cooper said.

The log cabin marker was ordered by Gene Cserpes of New Carlisle, Ind., who died in 2011, Cooper said. Cserpes' name is on the roof, and the names of two sons - who are not buried with him in New Carlisle - are "on the markers carved like a log."

Why a log cabin?

"He never really said," Cooper said. "I never asked him. He lived in a regular house. He didn't live in a log cabin. It was sort of a mystery. His significant other didn't know, either. But he was very firm. That's what he wanted."

Cooper has been working on the marker since the winter. It's going to be delivered in the coming week, Cooper said.

Is it the most unusual marker he's done?

"That's hard to say," Cooper said. "It's one of them, one of three or four of the most unusual. I've done a few odd things over the years."

That includes a marker for a customer in Dowagiac.

"It's a large, seven-foot tall, four-side piece of granite, highly textured," Cooper said. "It has sort of a Celtic look. The customer said, 'Do what you want, within reason.' I did it and they paid for it, so I guess they liked it."

He did another for some of his own family members. He described it as "two rough-hewn blocks of stone, smooth. It's like a leaf fossil that has a positive and a negative side. The lettering is raised and polished, and the other side is cut in. In theory, you could close them, because it's a mirror image."

Another, also for a Dowagiac customer, is "a shaft of a rough-hewn piece of stone," Cooper said. "It's one of those sculpted pieces with a hole in it so birds would nest in there, and they have. One year there were little wrens in there."

Cooper said he appreciates all business, but he loves working on the more uncommon and challenging pieces.

"Sometimes people want a big monument, real expensive, but they just want lettering on it," Cooper said. "I'm glad to get the job, but it's not what a stone carver wants to do, if he can do what he wants to do. If they'd let me, I'd do all sorts of things. For the price of a big monument, you can get a nice, hand-crafted thing, a real piece of stonework. Occasionally, I get people who let me do that."

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