(CBS) -- Inside one of four warehouses in Hillside, artisans are busy etching, plotting and creating granite headstones. Each letter, each design is someone's legacy, a family's closure.
"This is still very much a craft. Your mother, your father, people that were close to you, when they have died, most people really feel compelled and want to do something nice for that person and that's what drives them in here," said Lisa Troost, President, Peter Troost Monuments.
For the Troosts, memorializing the dead is the family business and it has been for 125 years.
Lisa Troost has run the company since 2007. Her ancestors were masons and granite cutters who brought their craft from Belgium. More than a century and a quarter later, the company has become the largest privately owned headstone and gravestone maker in the United States.
"We have grown to 26 locations in four states," she said. "We continue to be competitive. There used to be 100 monument makers in Chicago, now there are five so we go beyond memorials. We make bronze statutes and other things like benches, bronze plates and other things to stay competitive."
The company also was awarded some prestigious civic projects, including supplying the base for the Haymarket Monument in Waldheim Cemetery and supplying the granite from the Montello Granite Company that was used to construct Grant's Tomb.
In 1976, the company made an agreement with Sears Roebuck and Co. to sell monuments in their Chicago area stores. This was a tremendous source of growth and continued until 1985 when Sears decided to discontinue to product line.
Stonecutter John Hendrey has been creating markers for 35 years. Hendrey says he has made "thousands" of monuments in his career.
Troost says they make 6,000 pieces a year, from the simple to the elaborate.
"I think we've done just about everything," she said. "We sell everything from an 85 dollar pet marker to million dollar private mausoleums. Right now, we're creating a giant lion coming out of a block of stone for a child who loved this lion. It was part of his favorite children's book. It gives me goose bumps thinking about it."
As long as there is life, there is death, and in death there will be Troost monuments.
"We get to participate in this process with this family and make something that they will have forever. It's really very neat," Troost said.
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