A Sutton Institution since 1893 - Jenne Monuments
By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Amicable Brian Bidwell owns what is possibly the oldest continuously operating business in Sutton, Les Monuments Jenne, at the same location it was started in 1893. The monument trade in Sutton began with Lucius McClarty who eventually sold the business to Ernest Jenne and Henry Holmes in 1923. Eventually, Mr Homes got tired of it and joined the railroad but Ernest Jenne ran the business with his son Paul until he passed on in 1973. Paul Jenne continued and among the people he hired to help him is Brian Bidwell who started there at age 12 (!). Eventually Brian was able to purchase the business in 1976 and continues to artfully craft and inscribe monuments.
"It is now mostly done by sandblasting" explained Brians wife and partner, Liette Nadeau. "We use vinyl stencils and sandblast the names, dates, inscriptions or ornamental designs into the stones. Paul still used to work with chisels but the new technology affords us to deliver a much better product".
Speaking to the owners of this venerable business was enlightening, because it was expained to me how much work and effort goes into the erection of a stone which may weigh up to 1,000 lbs. A trench must be dug, a concrete foundation is then built and levelled off to the finest precision and, only after the concrete has set and aged, can Mr. Bidwell place the monument upon it. The company makes up to 100 monuments every year but that is only one part of the job. Brian and his crew will restore old monuments, re-write illegible texts, polish and maintain the stones, set them up properly if they have tilted because old foundations or mortar may have given way. Brian also repairs cracked monuments, regardless the age.
In June of 1998 Brian and Liette added another dimension to they business: working with natural stones found in the area, they started to create decorative items such as personalized garden stones, ornaments, "welcome" stones and birdbaths as well as simple things like "The Wilson's Residence". Their stones can bee seen all over Sutton and are not only highly ornamental but differ from any other product inasmuch that every rock is unique in shape and texture. The items in stock are available at the "Rock Shop" which adjoins the monument factory at the corner of Principale and Western streets.
"Is your husband ever getting depressed working around graveyards?". I asked Liette. "Not at all" she smiled, "We have the gift to make memories that last and can be enjoyed by loving family members for generations. This is our greatest reward".