WAXAHACHIE — Recording memories and honoring history, Giles Monument is more than rock and granite. The company has spent the last 50 years etching memories into the hearts of Ellis County.
“What we do is important to genealogy, and I always tell people that a monument is not for the deceased person,” expressed Perry Giles, owner of Giles Monument. “The memorial is for the living - family and friends, and gives those people a place to visit.”
“To me, cemeteries are one of the most peaceful, safest places you can be. If you enjoy history, you can walk through a cemetery, read the stones and find something out about the history,” he added.
Located off of West Highway 287 Business Road, across from the Waxahachie Country Club, rests a business that has upheld the ancestry of Ellis County since 1967.
“My dad started doing this type of work in 1947 after the war,” Giles recollected the business’ inspiration. “Well, after 20 years he decided to open his own business, so that was in 1967, and I was actually helping him at that time when I was around 12 years old.”
“He’s put me to work because I was always kind of artistic. Since I could draw and cut things with a knife, I’ve been around it all my life,” he added with a grin.
After Giles’ third year of studying geology and business at the University of Texas at Austin, he told of the moment he was called into his future career.
“By the third year, I decided that I’d rather work for myself rather than work for a corporation,” Giles laughed. “So after school, I joined the business, and my dad made me a partner, and we expanded the business, and we built a bigger building.”
“And I’ve been in this office and workshop since we moved,” he noted. “Originally, we were down the road about three-quarters of a mile in a rented building that doesn’t exist anymore, and then we moved to this location.”
Built in 1984, Giles Monument has remained in the same location for the last 33 years, accumulating an impressive repertoire within the industry.
From being named “Memorialist of the Year” in 1991 and 2001 to being esteemed members in Southern Monument Builders Association and Monument Builders of North America, and receiving recognition by the Senate of the State of Texas for outstanding community service, Giles continues to serve Waxahachie in a capacity that’s desperately needed.
“Obviously we deal with a lot of people going through a very tough time in their life,” Giles began. “But I don’t think it’ll ever go away. There’s a lot of people being cremated now, but the purpose of the monument is still the same. It doesn’t matter what you did with the body; the memorial is there for the living whether the person is buried or cremated.”
“Fifty or seventy-five years from now, if you want loved ones remembered, you need a memorial to show that you once lived. That desire has been there since the beginning of time. Humans have always piled rocks even 10,000 years ago. They would pile rocks to remember where somebody was and I don’t think that desire will ever stop.”
From specialized, custom monuments to lasting deep carvings and masterful craftsmanship, it’s no wonder Giles Monument has been in business for 50 years.
And though the monument company is a timeless practice, Giles continues his work not just for the benefit of his clients but also to those who have put their lives on the line.
“One of the things we did in town is build the veterans memorial that’s out at the Civic Center,” Giles recounted. “I was friends with the former fire chief of the city, who’s now retired, and we started talking about the fact that Waxahachie didn’t have a veterans monument, other than the monument for the Civil War at the Courthouse.”
“As time went by the city announced that they wanted to build a Civic Center, so we went before the City Council and asked permission to build a veterans memorial there, and they said, ‘Yes, but what’s it going to cost?’ And we said, ‘It’s not going to cost you anything, just give us a spot,’” he articulated.
Raising over $200,000 through generous donations, Giles designed, cut, and installed the monument that sits beneath the flagpoles in front of the Civic Center.
Along with the construction of the site, Giles also researched 300 names of Ellis County men who were killed in various wars, engraving their legacy into the stonework.
“I’m not a veteran, but I’m an amateur historian,” Giles admitted. “There are granite monuments in Egypt that was put up 4,000 years ago, and you can still read them because granite is one of the hardest rocks on earth and it weathers so slowly. In human terms, granite is forever.”
“So the Egyptians put up the obelisks and carved hieroglyphs all over it, and you can still read it many years later and many more to come. And that’s what we want to do; we want to make things last and honor those who once lived.”
From headstones in the cemetery to the mile markers on the Getzendaner Park trail, and the "walk of fame" stars in Downtown, Giles is grateful to have had an impactful influence in the history of Waxahachie.
“It’s nice to have a presence in the community for so long because it shows people that we’re not a ‘fly by night’ operation. But it does show that we’re getting old,” Giles chuckled.
“Waxahachie has really grown since I grew up here, and our business hasn’t changed that much over the years. I just hope people know that we’re here for them if they need us and that there’s nothing morbid about what we do because we’re not making history, we’re recording it,” he finished.
To connect with Giles Monument, visit gilesmonument.com or call 972-937-6171, or 972-938-2404.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer