By Meghan McCaffrey Contributing Writer
---- — Cherry Valley
For Daniel Viscosi, owner of Cherry Valley Memorials, the shop’s history is closely linked with his own family history.
Cherry Valley Memorials is a historical treasure that has been in business since 1854. In 1962 John R. Viscosi II, Dan’s father, bought the shop. John Viscosi had learned the stone carving craft at a shop in Johnstown before buying Cherry Valley Memorials when he was 25 years old.
“We worked as a family like farmers do,” said Dan Viscosi. Dan currently runs the Cherry Valley location, while his brother Rick operates the Gloversville shop.
“My dad taught us everything about the stone carving trade,” Dan Viscosi added.
After two years of owning the shop, John Viscosi increased the size and Cherry Valley Memorials and it became one of the biggest Rock of Ages dealers in the country. Rock of Ages deals in very high quality rock material, which mostly comes from quarries in Barry, Vt.
“We are one of the only Rock of Ages groups left to do the work on their material in the country,” Viscosi said.
In 1977, Dan and his brother Rick bought Cherry Valley Memorials from their father. John Viscosi had to step down because of health issues, but still ran things, Dan Viscosi said.
Cherry Valley Memorials is a family business through and through. As Dan described the various aspects of stone carving he wove in stories about his childhood, and his trials and tribulations in learning his father’s trade.
When Dan Viscosi was 17, he was carving two roses on a grave and just as he was finishing the second rose he hit a quartz knot. This caused the rock to pop and there was a small hole where the quartz had been. He tried to fix it, but the two roses were no longer identical.
“My father told me, no two roses are the same,” Dan Viscosi said. “You were in the wrong for trying to make them look the same. And we put the piece in the yard and sold it week later.”
Dan Viscosi spoke very passionately about the artwork and craftsmanship involved in stone carving.
“I like the art because it’s deeper,” Viscosi said, tracing his hand across a small stone prototype. The artwork is done with a dremel, a high-speed rotary cutting tool.
“You can’t make a mistake because you can’t erase it,” Viscosi said.
It is also possible to get photos on a gravestone either by loading it on the computer and having a stencil of it cut or by attaching a ceramic photo on the face of the stone, almost like a sticker but it will stay for many years.
“When I was younger all of the artwork was religious stuff or flowers,” Viscosi said. “Now we do just about anything and it’s all in a typical days work.”
Viscosi pointed out various artwork Cherry Valley Memorials has done including: Snowmobiles, deer, nature scenes, war memorials, photos and even a picture of a full size 1979 model Mercedes-Benz Limo that was done in the 1980’s. It was made entirely out of one slab of granite. A man bought it for his 15-year old brother who had died before he could buy him a car.
“We’re very rich in history,” Viscosi said. “We’ve done (stones for) movie stars and, though I can’t name names, we’ve done some pretty famous people.”
Cherry Valley Memorials although rooted in history, is literally working with cutting edge technology, Viscosi said. Dan Viscosi’s first cousin James Faliveno invented technology that cuts the stencil so that every letter and graphic is straight and in the correct placement.
“I can do 12 gravestones in the time it took me to do one,” said Brian Hull, the shop foremen, about the new technology.
Although they are able to meet the needs of any person’s gravestone or memorial, 40 percent of deaths in Otsego County result in cremations, not burials according to Viscosi. But, Viscosi said, that even relatives of those cremated have been requesting cremation memorials or benches.
Even though Cherry Valley Memorials is using new technology, they prefer to think of themselves as using the old artisan methods.
“We are 100 years behind the times and that is the way we want it,” Viscosi said.
Dan Viscosi said that his father, now 84, still works part-time in both shop locations checking on his boys and the business that he cares so much about. Cherry Valley Memorials is still as much a family business as it was in the 1960’s and the intention is to keep it that way.