Monumental Legacy: Father, son carry on family tradition

Photos by Nikki Rutledge/For The Courier

Sid Alexander, who learned the trade from his father, Beattie, in 1965, demonstrates the carving of a monument at Alexander Granite and Marble at 6959 Calhoun Memorial Highway in Easley. Below left: The intricate design work, carving and contouring are what Alexander believes makes his company’s work “unique.” Alexander operates the company with his son, Nic. Below right: A trip to the sand-blasting room in the company’s workshop is one of the crucial steps in the creation of a monument.


By Nikki Rutledge  For The Courier


Some may think doing the same thing every day for 50 years is a mundane way to go through life, but not Sid Alexander.

His father, Beattie Alexander, founder of Alexander Granite and Marble, taught Sid the stone masonry trade in 1965 when he was just 13 years old, and he has spent his life honing his craft.

The years have been spent carving and shaping granite or marble monuments by hand with a hammer and chisel, sand-blasting the inscriptions on them by hand, hand-carving designs on almost every one and enjoying every minute of it.

And he does it time and time again.

When asked what he may have chosen as a career had he not become a stone mason, Sid has no hesitation.

“I can’t imagine my life being any other way,” he said. “This craft is all I have ever known, and I can’t picture myself being successful at anything else. It started out as a way to survive, and over time turned into a passion.”

Although Beattie passed away in 1992, Sid operates the family business nowadays with his son, Nic Alexander, who joined him in 1999.

“I consider Nic to be the ‘meat and potatoes’ of our little mom-and-pop business,” Sid said. “I wouldn’t be in operation if it weren’t for him, and I am immensely proud of him for carrying on what my father built.”

Sid credits his son for being a rare find these days.

“In my day, a good craftsman was easy to find,” he said. “Today, that’s not the case. The patience just isn’t there in too many people anymore.”

Patience seems to be the crucial element in the Alexanders’ line of work.

There is the occasional large monument the duo is contracted to create, such as the War Memorial in front of Easley City Hall, but the bulk of their work is creating headstones.

However, the Alexanders’ isn’t your run-of-the-mill, assembly line-type production.

Each headstone is hand-crafted from the first step to the last and takes approximately two days to complete. All of the Alexanders’ granite and marble is hauled in from Elberton, Ga., and loaded into the workshop, which is the same as Beattie Alexander laid out himself nearly 60 years ago.

Sid’s process starts with hand-carving the headstone with a hammer and chisel, and each one is different, depending on the client’s preference. There are three different options for the texture — smooth, hand-hewn or rock pitch. In some cases, the carving of the headstone may include a major artistic element, such as an angel positioned on one side of the monument, or a large Celtic cross with intricate design work.

After the monument has been satisfactorily shaped and carved, a rubber stencil that has been laser-cut with the desired inscription is positioned on the front to serve as a guide for the sand-blasting. The monument is then placed on a secure stand and moved into what is referred to as the “sand-blasting room,” which is an enclosed chamber for the monument to be safely worked on. There is a separate access port on one side, so as to shield the craftsman’s face and body from flying debris while the major stencil work is completed.

Once the piece has been sand-blasted, it comes out of the chamber to be “weeded,” which means each letter or number still has to be perfected with a small carving tool to clean up the appearance.

Then, there is the more intricate and tedious carving to be done, such as flowers, religious depictions, pictures or scenery.

This is where Sid believes an extreme amount of patience is necessary. He likens this craft to surgery.

“You have to know where to go in, how to make the stone move naturally,” he said. “It’s a very specific technique. Our carving and contouring are what I believe makes our work unique.”

Despite half a century of stone work, Sid said his greatest work could still be ahead of him.

“What I would consider the perfect monument has eluded me, even after 50 years — the one that’s just right, the perfect size and the right color,” he said.

He does have favorites, however, including the aforementioned Easley War Memorial and a large Celtic cross headstone he designed for a client.

“The artwork on that cross is beautiful,” he said. “And each monument is challenging in its own way. No two are the same.”

It seems Beattie Alexander’s legacy is still alive and well, after close to 60 years. His son and his grandson still carry that torch he lit so long ago, and it shines just as brightly as the day it was lit.