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Mendota Monument celebrates a century milestone

Posted: Tuesday, Sep 17th, 2013

Frank J. Schmitt, Mendota Monument Company founder

MENDOTA – Frank J. Schmitt tried many businesses including an ice company and a coal, sand, and gravel business. But, it was a business transaction on June 27, 1913 that has stood the test of time. On that day, Schmitt entered into a partnership with Harry Morrison to form the Mendota Monument Company. Continuing at the same location, today the company celebrates 100 years of business.

Looking back, by 1914, records do not mention Morrison’s name, suggesting the partnership could have been dissolved. However, Frank Schmitt continued to provide granite memorials to the area until his death in 1944.

Starting the second generation, Frank’s sons Donald, Ralph, and Robert took over the business. Even though all three perfected the skills needed to do memorials, they all had their own specialties in the business. Donald performed all of the cutting of the stencil and sandblasting. Ralph was in the sales end of the business, not only in the office but over the road, as well. Robert laid out the lettering and also set all of the foundations and memorials at the cemeteries.

After the passing of Donald in 1972, the start of the third generation began. Robert’s son, Ron joined the business. Again, he learned all aspects of the business. Then, Ron took over the layouts, drawing of designs, and cutting of the stencil.

After the retirement of Ralph in 1980, another one of Robert’s sons, Steve, came into the business. He started out and continues to work in the cemeteries putting in the foundations and the setting of the memorials.

Robert had a heart attack in 1995 and Ron’s son, Erik, was then offered the opportunity to work alongside his father and uncle.

“I knew what the business meant to my grandfather and all of the hard work that he put into it,” said Erik, on contemplating joining the family business.

Ron originally was going to study history at college, Steve was living across the country in New Jersey, and Erik was a landscaper in Rockford, but when the need arose, they all stepped up to continue the legacy of the Mendota Monument Company.

“There is a lot of pride having a business last this long,” said Erik.

The Schmitts have purposely kept their business in the family. They want to make sure that the work is kept up to their level of standards. Even with the advance of computer technology, the Schmitts still do much of the work of designing by hand.

“It is a service that is needed. When the family comes in and sees the completed work they are happy, even at that sad time,” said Erik.

“It gives them closure. The marker is usually the final piece in the funeral process,” Ron added.

Operating at the same location as from the very beginning, the Schmitts continue to design and set memorials in Mendota and the surrounding area. “We really want to thank our customers for letting us provide them our services,” said Ron.

Any plans to celebrate? “We are always busy. We haven’t had the time to have any celebration,” Ron noted.

Celebration or not, Mendota Monument Company plans to continue to provide its services to the community for many years to come. “I have thought about my children carrying on the business. It just depends when someone wants to retire, who is ready and willing to take over,” Erik said.

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