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Rock of Ages

John Viscosi enters 50th year in the memorial business

June 8, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald
GLOVERSVILLE — John Viscosi, who turns 80 in three months, is in his 50th year in the monument business. He has been featured in Life magazine and the Saturday Evening Post and remains actively involved in Cherry Valley on South Main Street.

Viscosi started apprenticing in the monument business in 1958, bought Cherry Valley Memorials in 1962 and set up an office in his hometown of Gloversville in 1976. But the company actually goes back even farther.

“The company was established in 1854,” Viscosi said.

Cherry Valley, which employs about 20 people, is one of the top 25 Rock of Ages monument companies in the United States. While anchored in the past, the company has looked to the future with innovations such as the “Monu-Cad” system used by other monument companies.

“We were one of the first retail monument dealers in the U.S. to use a computer to design and cut monuments,” Viscosi said. “The program was developed by James Falliveno while employed by Cherry Valley, and he now owns a business of his own serving the world with [computer] programs and equipment.”

He said the computer program allows family members to see a full-size computer drawing of the design for approval before any work is done on the monument.

Viscosi said he has been aligned with Rock of Ages throughout his years in the business.

“Rock of Ages is the largest monument company in the world and owns most of the rock quarries in Vermont,” he said.

Viscosi said he apprenticed under Arnolfo Magistris from Barre, Vt., from 1958-62.

“He was always ‘Mr. Magistris’ to me,” Viscosi said as he explained his high regard for his mentor.

“I would draw a design that I thought was pretty good,” he said. “Mr. Magistris would say, ‘All right. Roll that up and put it away for now.’ Then a year later when I drew a design, he had me take out the drawing I made a year before, and it looked terrible to me in comparison.”

With Magistris’ help and advice, Viscosi bought Cherry Valley Memorials in 1962 and then the former Texaco service station at the intersection of South Main and East Pine streets. He remodeled the building and opened it for monument sales in 1976.

“At first it was hard to get established in my hometown,” he said.

He persevered, however, and became a top Rock of Ages dealer. Through the years, he has seen much of the business taken over by his sons Daniel and John “Rick” Viscosi.

“At present we are the only Rock of Ages dealer from Albany to Syracuse,” he said.

While the senior Viscosi said he no longer “cuts stone” himself, he is still involved with design ideas and oversight. Many of his designs can be seen at community sites such as the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Trail Station Park monument, the Vietnam Memorial at Fulton-Montgomery Community College and the World War II Veterans Memorial Park on North Kingsboro Avenue. Cherry Valley is also responsible for the New York State Police Memorial engraving at the Egg in Albany and the Memorial to the Unborn in Auriesville. Being a veteran himself, Viscosi said he is especially proud of the many veterans’ monuments he designed.

While discussing the future of the business, Viscosi pointed out marble and granite name plates for desks, engraved photos and designs in stone tile, benches and other stone furnishings the company now designs. Among the special projects he has been involved in, some of his favorites are the “Sand Lot Kid” baseball statue in Cooperstown as well as various firefighter and veterans memorials.

“The Sand Lot Kid was originally set on Main Street in Cooperstown and then it was moved to Doubleday Field,” Viscosi said. “That was where baseball was born, started by Abner Doubleday.

“We all believe in our product and want to enhance our reputation by being a highly reputable company,” Viscosi said.

Veterans Service Agency Director Frank Ruggiero said Cherry Valley has done great work on projects for the agency.

Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Wally Hart agreed.

“They are very involved in the community,” Hart said. “They have a great reputation and have been very supportive of the community in a number of things.”

Memorial counselor Mary “Kitty” Resnick said she enjoys thinking of appropriate inscriptions for monuments. For her own, she thinks she might put “Death is not permanent, it’s only a change of worlds.”

John Viscosi said he already has his picked out as well.

“I wanted to have people who walk by chuckle,” he said. “My inscription isn’t on the stone yet, but it’s in my will.”

The inscription will read, “I had a feeling something like this might happen.”



Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald.com.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen

Owner John Viscosi and memorial counselor Mary “Kitty” Resnick look over paperwork at Cherry Valley Memorials in Gloversville May 30.

 
 

 

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