the business, Lemke’s role has been part time. Until the early 1970s, he was employed at an area business which then encountered a union strike, leaving him and others who were affected with a very limited income from the union.
Lemke then took a job at the Aluminum Specialty Co. in Chilton. Soon after that, Chilton Monument Works was looking for a replacement for the disabled previous manager, he recalls.
When Lemke took the job, which he would tend to on evenings and weekends and which he understood would never be more than a part-time job, he knew virtually nothing about the business. He had to learn almost everything about it while on the job. He admits that business was slow during his first few years.
Change of scenery
During his 40 years in the role, monument decorations have evolved from shaped carvings to hand etchings with a special color dye that are covered with an epoxy, Lemke points out. An upgrade in recent years is that the colors are guaranteed to last forever, he adds.
Black is still the most popular base color because the etchings look best on that background, Lemke said. At its Appleton headquarters, the company has a man and a woman who prepare the etchings, he said.
In the two large rooms at the Chilton
location, there are more than 100 monuments— some of which are in various stages of completion. Lemke also notes that pre-used monuments, on which lettering would be recut, are available at lower prices. He acknowledges that, as with many other things, the jump in cost has been a major change in the monument business.
In addition to the annual presence at the County Fair, Lemke promotes the business with advertisements every February in the local weekly newspapers. He also sponsors prizes at holes for golf tournaments which are run as benefits for area schools.
Lemke said he has “no definite answer” when people ask him about retirement. He does not plan to do so as long as he is physically able to handle what he describes as “not an easy job” to learn because of the many factors which are involved. He does not have anyone in mind as a potential successor.
Because the business is open only by appointment, persons wanting to contact Lemke need to call 849-2834 or 849-4919.