Pandemic slows headstone orders for Michigan engraver

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This Dec. 10, 2019, photo shows the headstones of Josiah Clark, a Revolutionary War soldier, and his wife, that were removed from a cemetery near the edge of an eroding river bank in Weybridge, Vt. Rising seas, erosion and flooding from worsening storms that some scientists believe are caused by climate change are putting some older graveyards across the country at risk. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — Brooks Wheeler is running low on rock, and that’s not a good thing when you carve cemetery headstones.

Many quarries where stone is cut were closed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and companies now are working to catch up to demand.

“Usually, I have my stones by now,” said Wheeler, who owns Muskegon Monument & Stone in western Michigan. “I usually have a whole bunch of stones here and I don’t have as many as I usually do.”

Wheeler gets most of his stone from Georgia.

“I have stuff that’s on order that usually I have shipped here by now,” Wheeler told WOOD-TV. “But the quarries were all closed down last year, so they had a hard time getting the blocks where I get my stones from. So they’re a little bit behind.”

Wheeler said that the shortage has forced him to sell what he has on hand which means “you can’t make mistakes when you’re running low on stock.”

“Their stones tell stories, if they let me,” he added. “I’ve lost my mom and my dad, and I know how important it is to make sure that stone is right.”

But right now, he’s having to tell customers to wait.

“It’s better to wait and get exactly what you want than to do something that you’re just wanting to do in a hurry,” Wheeler said. “I do it all by hand. The work has changed for other places, but not for here. We do it right and right now, that takes a little longer.”

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