After the Fall
To look at the magnificent Emmick memorial today, you would never know that on October 17th, 1989, the earthquake that terrified San Francisco and brought the first game of the World Series to a halt, had tumbled the monument to pieces just at the entrance to Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California.
"This marble memorial was an old, handcrafted one," says Mark Fontana of V. Fontana & Company in Colma. "It was so severely damaged it was nearly destroyed in the earthquake. We were commissioned by the cemetery to completely reconstruct it. The monument was rebuilt to its original state. Damaged pieces were entirely replaced, or carved and shaped to fit. Other, salvageable pieces were reworked or renovated to appear new. We think the results are excellent."And they are. See for yourself.
The impressive and stately Emmick memorial was designed by Howard Seidell nearly 60 years ago. Although it appears to be a single smooth wall 30 feet long with a heavily carved center die 14 feet tall, the monument is actually a series of carved marble members, with each one intricately cut to fit into its adjacent piece; the whole
is held by a series of carefully crafted joints.
According to Fontana, the scroll work in the center die was probably the largest and most difficult piece to replace. Badly fractured in its tumble, Fontana's people reassembled the broken pieces back at their factory and fabricated templates for the duplicate work. It was all inlaid and painstakingly shaped by hand to look as much as possible like the original.
As the photographs of the back of the monument indicate, the Emmick nameplate conceals niches made to hold a total of eight urns. The nameplate is installed in such a way that it can be removed whenever necessary for the installation of urns in the future, but usually this storage area remains covered and sealed, which is the way the family prefers it.
Fontana says, "The quality of the original marble was so outstanding that, even after the passage of 55 years, it was easy to clean away the few stains. We obtained excellent quality marble from Minshew Monuments in Georgia for the replacement pieces, and the match is good, in part, because we texturized all the surfaces in our factory."
Restoration work was begun on the memorial at the end of December, 1989, and completed and set at the end of June this year. All of the carving, shaping and finishing work was done by Fontana personnel. Pietro (Pete) Masnada was the stonecutter. He has been with Fontana for 37 years, and began his career there working for Mark's grandfather. Ray Ward did the carving, and Darrell Sowers worked on all aspects of the project.
"Actually," Fontana says, "cemetery restoration has become a large part of our memorial work. It's one more effort to diversify ourselves within the field."
Imagine what Fontana could have done with Humpty Dumpty.