Grayling artist creates custom artwork for well-established monument company now under new ownership
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
For the last 26 years, Grayling artist Dan Feldhauser has created lasting memories for families through a monument company which is under new ownership and in a new location.
Sue and Scott Mires, of Roscommon, purchased the St. Helen Monument Co. from the Hill family earlier this year. Now called the St. Helen-Roscommon Monument, Inc., the business is located at 101 East Federal Highway.
The late William Hill and his wife, Dorothy, established the St. Helen Monument Sales, Inc. in 1976, when they relocated to St. Helen from the Pontiac area. The business ran on a part-time basis until 1995, when Dorothy retired from the Gerrish-Higgins School District.
The Hills’ son and daughter-in-law, Brian and Julie Hill, assisted with sales, production, office work, and deliveries.
The Mires family will carry on the well-established customer care.
“You do not see a family-owned business lasting 40 years too often, so that is an incredible tribute to the Hills’ customer service they have provided to families in time of bereavement,” Sue said. “Scott and I will continue that care, support and dedication to individuals and their families in the process of creating their loved one’s legacy.”
Feldhauser began creating custom artwork on black granite in 1992 while working for the Raubar Granite Co. in the Detroit-area. A majority of the monuments went to the St. Helen Monument Co.
Creating the images involves etching or scratching the granite to create the artwork. The granite is then polished and covered with an epoxy finish.
“The problem is you can’t take too much off because you can’t put it back on,” Feldhauser said.
He worked on the monuments while serving as a history/social studies/art teacher and coach for the Wyandotte and Grosse Isle School Districts.
“On the weekends and any time I could spare, I was working on the monuments in between,” Feldhauser said.
Feldhauser returned to live in Crawford County in 1996. He capped off his 32-year career in education as a special education teacher for the Crawford AuSable School District, retiring in 2004.
Feldhauser enjoys creating images that will tell a story about a person at a time when a family needs comfort in their time of loss.
“You’re telling a story about a person’s life, because generally the things we put on them are things that were important to the people – their homes and their pets,” he said. “Eighty percent of what we do usually has hunting or fishing on them or and an up north theme such as their cottages and things like that on the stone. The stone tells the story of their life and things they did while they were alive. We’re making people happy, hopefully.”
Feldhauser is one of a few artists in the state who are still etching artwork on black granite. Other monument companies have changed to burning images on stones with lasers. The difference in the manufacturing means images such as pets cannot be added to a scene if it is not part of the original picture being used.
“We do custom – anything people want,” Feldhauser said.
Feldhauser relishes the opportunity to create images, which will be observed by people for generations.
“It’s something that is lasting that is bigger than myself,” he said. “It means a lot. It’s means something that is lasting that will mean a lot to a family down the road.”
Feldhauser said he will continue to work on the monuments as long as he has his eye sight and health.
“It keeps me young. It keeps me busy,” he said.
Feldhauser appreciates that the business moved closer to where he lives in Crawford County, in a building where the Mires also operate a brochure distribution service for travel information.
Sue said she is pleased Feldhauser has stayed with the business as it moves forward.
“Having his experience as an artist brings a uniqueness to our business that a lot of other businesses can’t offer,” she said.
Sue, who retired after serving as teacher at the Roscommon Elementary School, serves as a sales consultant for the business to make memorials which are unique and personalized.
“It’s one of a kind,” she said. “It’s just a matter of sitting down with the family and meeting their needs.”
Scott will set the stones with a focus on cemeteries in Graying, Houghton Lake, Roscommon, Hale and West Branch, since the family is familiar with local cemetery regulations. The monuments, however, can be ordered and delivered statewide.
The business hours for the St. Helen-Roscommon Monument, Inc. are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. After hour appointments can also be arranged.
For more information, call (989) 389-4921 or visit shmonument.com.