July 22, 2020

Monuments, Markers, Headstones, Tombstones: All are Available From Sutphen Memorials Inc.

MEMORIALS AND MONUMENTS: Sutphen Memorials Inc. has been helping families design and create granite, marble, and bronze memorials for five generations. “We are here to help people through the difficult process of monument selection with our personal service and experience.” Douglas G. Sutphen Sr. (right) and Douglas G. Sutphen Jr., owners of Sutphen Memorials Inc., are dedicated to serving their customers with thoughtfulness and expertise.

By Jean Stratton

Memorializing one’s final resting place is a nearly universal — yet often postponed — practice. No one really wants to face this particular inevitability, so putting off the decision is not unusual.

On the other hand, says Douglas G. Sutphen Jr., co-owner with his father Douglas G. Sutphen Sr. of Sutphen Memorials Inc., many people with a more practical bent do plan ahead and select a monument or headstone before the need actually arises. Whether simple or elaborate, whimsical or poignant, it will reflect their final wishes and how they want to be remembered.

“Some people purchase the plot in the cemetery and the monument at the same time,” he points out. “Often, older people will decide on monuments ahead of time. It is really easier on the family if the decision has been made before.

“If it wasn’t selected before the death, however, I will often suggest that the family wait for a while before deciding, maybe a couple of months. This way they can make some notes, and think about how the person would want to be remembered, his or her interests, personality, etc.”

Five Generations

The Sutphens have been helping clients for five generations. The family- owned and operated business was established in the early 1900s, and now has two locations, one in Hopewell at 89 East Broad Street, and a second, A. L. Duryee & Son Memorials, in Hightstown.

“I’m the fifth generation to work in the business,” says Douglas G. Sutphen Jr., who had a first-hand look at the operation at an early age. It also involved some surprising moments.

“When I was a boy, I worked alongside Lyman Spitzer Jr., the famous astrophysicist at Princeton University, and helped install his large personal monument in Princeton Cemetery. I always enjoyed the artistic side of the work, the design and engraving, and later, I went to Barre, Vermont to learn engraving at the well-known Rock of Ages stone factory.”

Joining his father in the family business full-time in 2003, Sutphen became involved in the process from beginning to end. “I often meet prospective  clients at the cemetery to see the plot and then discuss the memorial. We can then take care of everything: draw up a plan for the design (which customers review), see to the engraving, and the installation of the memorial.

“We are actively involved in grave openings in 18
in the greater Princeton area. We also do our own installations because we want to make sure there is no damage to the monument in transit. I oversee the entire process.”

Choice of monument is an important decision, and, of course, budget will be a factor as to the style and size. Costs can range from $900 to $1,500 to $2,500 on up to $25,000 and more for larger statues.

Highest Quality

Granite is the most popular choice, but marble and bronze are other options. Granite is the most durable, and the memorials typically have a smooth, polished finish. Sutphen notes that more colors have become available in recent years.

“There is now a bigger color selection, which has been greatly expanded due to the increase of imported stone. Currently, the most popular color is charcoal gray that comes from South Africa. We only sell the highest quality granite available.”

Among the most common choices are the “Companion Memorials,” he adds. This includes one headstone with two names, and is typical for married couples.

Another choice is a family monument, including a large memorial with the family name and then small markers placed around it, featuring the names of the deceased family individuals.

The range of design possibilities is almost unlimited — from the simplest headstone to large statues of angels and saints. Monuments may be in the shape of a cross, Star of David, flowers, even a boat.

“Styles depend on the person’s personality,” says Sutphen. “Some people are traditionalists, others modernists. Designs can include rings, military insignia, sports items, animals, musical notes — whatever was personal to the deceased. One client even had a farm tractor on the monument; another an ocean scene and lighthouse.”

Engraving and Etching

“Engraving and etching on monuments have become more detailed, and we can provide whatever people want,” he adds. “They can give us a photo of something they like, and we can create that. We can also engrave in a variety of languages, including Chinese and Arabic, among many others.”

While not as prevalent as they once were, epitaphs are still requested, he continues. “People still want them, but they are mostly generic: Rest in Peace, Forever In Our Hearts, Always Loved, Gone But Not Forgotten, etc. We try to keep them short so they don’t overtake the stone.”

He does point out that one of the most famous epitaphs ever — “I Told You I Was Sick!” — was the work of Sutphen Memorials on a monument in the Princeton Cemetery.

Pets are very often much loved members of the family, and Sutphen Memorials has created memorials for animals, including dogs and cats, of course, and also horses.

In addition to cemetery monuments, the company provides a variety of other memorials. “We do monuments for schools, bronze plaques or statues, dedication plaques, and building monuments,” notes Sutphen.   

Advances in technology are a factor in just about every business today, and Sutphen Memorials is no exception. It is a factor not only in creating designs but in selling online, and the ensuing process.

On-Site Restoration

“Hightstown has 90 percent online/phone sales,” reports Sutphen. “Then I can take photos and email an idea for the monument design. The Hopewell area is about 50 percent online/phone sales, but a good number of families still want to touch/feel the stone they are buying.”

In addition to new monuments, Sutphen Memorials provides on-site restorative work, including cleaning, fixing, setting, and realigning stones. Also, lettering (sand blasting) on existing stones is offered. Restoration of historic monuments and broken monuments is another service.

Douglas Sutphen Jr. is proud of the family business and its respected reputation, earned over many years. “I have made lifelong friends in this work after creating a monument for their family. We have clients for generations in the same family. Helping them during a difficult time creates a bond.

“I saw this business from an early age, and I saw my grandfather, Claude G. Sutphen’s, relationships with the customers and families when I was growing up. And now, I see that with myself and how I participate with the families and how I want to help them. Trying to get the stone just right for them, to be just what they want, is meaningful to me.”

Now, all that remains to be seen is whether Sutphen’s two sons, Colton, 5, and Preston, 3, will become the sixth generation to continue the family business.

Sutphen Memorials Inc. can be reached at (609) 921-6420. Website: www.sutphenmemorials.com. Hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.