Heavy Lifting

Well, we had an inaugural couple weeks of our own here at Mount Olivet Cemetery with the installation of some pretty awesome monuments. In fact, they represent some of the most impressive in my five year tenure, and surprisingly, one is the largest erected over the 55-year employment of our superintendent, J. Ronald Pearcey.

Our administrative and sales offices are located in the central building of our mausoleum complex in the rear of the cemetery. This is close to the highways (I-70 and I-270) that pass by on the cemetery’s south side. I have an office here, and from my office window, I can see both of these impressive works of rock. If I look to the east and the FSK Area of the cemetery, I can spy a monument dedicated to the memory of R. Carl Benna, who passed away on March 16th, 2019 at the age of 71. The large headstone utilizes what is called the Apex style (as in apex roof) and features 7 inch raised lettering, also given in this particular case as 13 pennies high, a throwback measurement once common to the industry.

This six-foot tall work was crafted by Star Granite of Elberton, Georgia, and was 3 months in the making utilizing Georgia Blue-Gray Granite with a “steeled,” or unpolished, finish. Mrs. Brenda Benna worked with our Assistant Superintendent/Sales Manager Rick Reeder in designing and executing this granite masterpiece with raised lettering. The gravestone’s placement is on the north driveway that leads visitors back to the mausoleum complex.

​As for the decedent, Mr. Benna, I have included his obituary below which documents an impressive business career in home building. This seems quite fitting as the monument atop his final resting place features an apex, a principal element in home architecture of course, not to mention the fact that this lasting memorial required a high degree of coordinated fabrication, transportation of major components, and on-site construction upon a sturdy foundation that required over 53 square feet of cement.

As the Benna stone went up on January 5th, an equally impressive, and considerably taller, monument of the Cooper family was on its way to us from India, by way of Georgia and the forementioned firm of Star Granite. This 20-foot gravestone would be put in place earlier this past week on January 18th.

Both markers required critical assistance from a crane. The Benna stone weighed roughly 21,000 lbs, while the Cooper obelisk, comprised of multiple parts, totaled a sum of 35,000 lbs of finely polished imported gray granite.

Two black granite benches were added to the base of the Cooper monument, and ornamental urns placed ion the four corners to delineate the boundaries of the lot. It is clearly "one for the ages." The location in Area SS allows for easy viewing by passing motorists, as well as being seen from several differing vantage points throughout the newer part of the cemetery, not to mention from my desk as well. ​

The Cooper monument is a perfect example of pre-planning by a couple—in this case, Ottoway and Montcella Cooper of Fredericksburg, Virginia. We, here at Mount Olivet, are in no hurry to see either member of this fine couple as full-time resident anytime soon. I understand, that the family has other relatives buried here which prompted their choice for a final resting place. Saying that, it is expected that the couple will always be surrounded by family because they have truly made a familial plot harkening back to the days of old here in Mount Olivet. The Coopers own 24 grave spaces here for themselves and immediate kin, with the ability to provide for future generations for years to come. Talk about having the best centerpiece a family plot could have?

I asked Superintendent Pearcey when he thought the last major monument of this caliber was installed in the cemetery. He told me that the Great Depression and World War II eras put to rest the Victorian era practice of grand monuments—a signature of our historic section. Not only was this based on economics, but perhaps, more so, on the growing popularity and affordability of the automobile and improved transportation through highways. Family members became more transient in nature, and left native hometowns that had hosted founding families for generations. People went west and all directions in search of fortune, work and a myriad of other opportunities.

Some folks would still “come home” at the time of their death, but this is something that would change the dynamic of the stately garden cemeteries like ours (founded in 1852). Much like post-war suburbanization and housing development building on larger scales than ever before, we saw cookie-cutter style memorial cemeteries, boasting standardized size or style grave markers, come about in the 1950s and 1960s. This was also a departure in what could with rural church cemeteries throughout Frederick County, our state, and the nation.

Some may recall a ”Story in Stone” I wrote a few months back in which I called out a large obelisk in Area G belonging to the Noah E. Cramer family (erected around 1930), and another erected recently in Area RR to the memory of Cleopatra Campbell in 2020.

Cramer Lot in Area G

Campbell Lot in Area RR

Mr. Pearcey told me he thought the World War II Memorial in Area EE was l