PARIS — Debbie Carroll sometimes has to field a recurring question when she arrives at a cemetery to set a gravestone.
Carroll will show up with a pickup truck, the stone, a hand truck and a few planks. For good measure, there is a motor hoist as well, but she says she has only had to use it twice. If the family of the deceased asks where her equipment is, she usually replies, “I am the equipment.”
“It’s funny because she’s so tiny, and her truck is so big, and the monuments she moves are so huge,” said Pam Bennett, Carroll’s friend and a helper in her shop.
Carroll, who designs the stones, said she is the only woman she knows of in the state who sets them in place. She says people are sometimes surprised and offer assistance in setting the stone.
“I’ve had to tell people, ‘You’re going to get hurt,’ because they don’t think I can do it,” she said.
Carroll, who grew up in Oxford, has been in the gravestone business for 12 years and running her own business, Precious Plots, for the past two years. The shop is in a building on Main Street. Carroll said she originally worked in collections at another gravestone business, but later became involved in other work.
“I got to go to a quarry, and that’s what really hooked me,” she said.
Carroll’s process of creating a gravestone begins on paper, where a client discusses the design and type of monument they want. The design is then put into a computer program and sent to another company, which sandblasts the design onto a stone. The process ends when Carroll picks up the gravestone and sets it at a cemetery, in the presence of the family of the deceased if they have requested to be there.
The stones range in weight, with smaller markers weighing about 118 pounds. Another order for a monument had a 490-pound base and 650-pound top. Carroll typically uses a hand truck and a ramp to load or unload them from her truck.
“It’s amazing what can be done mind-over-matter with her,” Bennett said.
Carroll said she is assisted in her endeavor by family and friends. While the business initially focused on cleaning gravestones, it expanded to design after a former client and others urged her to do so. She said the work is difficult, including days where she is swarmed by insects in the hot sun.
“You do it because of the love of the field,” she said. “I love to work hard.”
Carroll said she also enjoys meeting a wide variety of people, but is always cognizant that they are going through a terrible time in their lives. She said she aims to complete stones within two to four weeks of an order, in part because of emotional considerations.
“This is closure for somebody,” she said, “so you don’t want to wait eight weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks for closure.”