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10/3/2004

Rolling stones

By Jolie Breeden
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Memorials are about endurance and commemoration of the past, and so is one company that makes them.

Longmont Memorials Inc. has been a fixture at Main Street and 11th Avenue since the early 1900s. Although the company, which produces grave monuments and other stone carvings, recently moved a block west to the corner of 11th Avenue and Coffman Street, not a lot else has changed.

“We’ve always run our business the way our grandfather and father did,” said Anthony Deorio, who, along with his brother Dave, owns and operates the nearly century-old business.

The company began as Draper P. Smith Monument Works in 1910. Eventually, founder Draper Smith sold it to his daughter Mildred and son-in-law Hugh Pennock, who operated the business until Mildred’s death in 1965. It was then sold to a group of local morticians and businessmen.

The last time the company changed hands was in 1975, when it was bought by the Deorios’ father, Ralph.

“We’re a small family business, operating as if it was running in the ’50s, basically,” Anthony Deorio said.

That old-fashioned business ethic has been the bedrock of the Deorios since their grandfather Dominick emigrated from Italy in the early 1920s and taught himself to carve stone.

When Dominick died in 1953, 17-year-old Ralph and his twin brother, Charlie, took over the family business, D. Deorio and Sons Memorials in Wheat Ridge.

“My dad was a smart guy and a hard worker,” said Anthony. “His monuments were his life.”

Ralph Deorio originally bought Longmont Memorials as an investment and left the operation largely in the hands of David Horn, who had been with the company since 1954 at the age of 16.

When Horn stepped down in 1997, Anthony and Dave took over but didn’t change much.

“We still use the same old methods passed down from our father,” said Anthony.

The recent trend in the memorial business has been for large corporations to take orders but contract the work to be manufactured elsewhere.

That’s far from the case at Longmont Memorials. All work — from the design to the engraving to the final setting of the stone — is done on-site by Anthony, Dave or their sole employee, Trent Houston.

“It’s a big joint effort on all our parts,” Dave said.

That effort translates into more control for the customer and a higher level of craftsmanship than found in mass-produced pieces.

“We’d just as soon be out of the business before we’d compromise on craftsmanship,” said Dave.

That attitude remains as part of Ralph Deorio’s vision for the company, as is the new office space and enhanced engraving shop.

“Dad’s dream was to put up a new facility,” said Anthony.

Although Ralph passed away in 2001, he laid the foundation for his sons to carry on that dream.

Twenty-five years ago, the elder Deorio secured a site for a new location because the previous space was leased and he wanted to ensure the business had a place to go if that lease was terminated. Shortly after, however, he was able to buy the original property.

It wasn’t until 2002, though, that an offer from Eckerds drug stores to buy that property allowed them to start working on the new locale.

Still, Ralph’s dream was almost dashed when the Eckerds deal collapsed after 80 percent of the project was complete.

The brothers say they have the kindness of their contractor, their attorney, the developer and helpful city employees to thank for saving the project.

“We know how to carve stone, but when it comes to the business world out there, they helped us to keep it straight,” said Dave.

The final details fell in place with the issuance of their certificate of occupancy on Sept. 17, exactly three years after their father’s death.

The new facility is far from the only legacy Ralph Deorio left at Longmont Memorials. He also left his sons with a rock-solid philosophy, one that they heard more than once.

“He always told us: It’s not only your customer’s family name going on the monument; it’s your family name,” said Anthony.

Jolie Breeden can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389, or by e-mail at jbreeden@times-call.com.