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Living A Life Of Gratitude

An Interview With Carole Bealer

Carole with her parents Alvie and Rosie

Carole with her parents Alvie and Rosie

November is rich in color, beauty and feelings of gratitude.  As the mornings become crisper our pace tends to slow down a bit.

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November is known as the month for counting our blessings, letting our friends and families know how much we love and appreciate them and a time we enjoy the harvest of our hard work.

For  Carole  Bealer,  gratitude  is  an  attitude  she  practices daily.  Carole’s strong sense of gratitude, love and appreciation is something she was taught to

embrace as a young child growing up in Cut Bank.  My parents, Alvie and Rosie, taught me to be a confident woman of faith.

I enjoyed the farm and working with my mom. My mother was my best friend, my mentor and my confident.  I remember when I was three years old she would put me up to the sink on a chair or and old apple box and taught me to enjoy washing dishes. There was always a plant in the window. Most of the time it was a parsley plant and she would explain to me that our Creator made the plant for us.  All we had to do was pinch off a little piece of it and put it in our mouth and it makes our breath nice and sweet.  Also we can put it in our salad and it would help us be healthier.  She taught me how to find gratitude in even the smallest things.

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Carole Bealer

My mother was my best friend, my mentor and my confident.

Carole attended school in Cut Bank, but did not graduate. When I was 17, my junior year, I had to have a double hernia operation. I didn’t go back to school, I got married. I met my husband as a young person; I was 6, Orville was 10. His mother and my uncle’s wife were sisters. I was invited to go to the Ice Capades with them in Spokane,  that was our first date! Orville lived in Coeur d’Alene and we wrote each other over the years.

I still have every letter he ever wrote me. Each letter included a drawing of something he had seen that day  he was a very talented artist. We didn’t start dating until I was 14 and he was 19. Orville came to work on my dad’s farm. We were married three years later. Orville was such a wonderful man.

We worked together, played together and raised our son Ron in an 8 foot x 35 foot trailer on the family farm.  My husband built an intercom from our trailer to my parent’s house so that my mom and I could communicate.

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Orville and Carole on their wedding day

Orville and I worked on the family farm for $200 a month. To earn extra money my husband starting making signs for people in Cut Bank. Orville was known for his artistic abilities and sign business grew quickly.  He could paint a sign and do a straight line without a ruler.  He set up a studio in my dad’s garage.

 

The sign business continued to grow to the point that Orville quit the farm.  He started working part-time at the local dry cleaners.  He worked at the dry cleaners for 27 years until he bought the local monument business in 1980.  The business was originally established as Choteau Monuments. We bought it from Bill Burns, a mortician’s son, who wanted to go into the lawyer business. Bill gave Orville 15 minutes of training and wished him well. My husband was a true German, stubborn and hardworking.  If he made up his mind, almost nothing was impossible.  He would go to the library and get a book and learn.

I bought my husband a violin when we were first married because he’d always wanted to learn.  I save up my tips, which were very sparse in 1958 (probably $5 a day), and bought the violin.  I still have the violin it represents such a happy time in my family’s life. Orville taught himself to play and my mom played the piano and we sang.

Choteau Monuments was strictly a monument business when the Bealers made the purchase in 1980.  However, that changed when it became Glacier Signs and Monuments. When Orville passed away in 1995, the future of the business was a bit uncertain. The business not only endured the transitional time, it flourished. Carole’s son said, Mom, you have been waiting tables for 42 years from the time you were 14.  You are 56  you have done enough. Let’s carry on Dad’s business. Let’s make a go of the monument business. And that is exactly what they did.

In the beginning, the headstones were not as ornate as they now are. “We design headstones with very personal elements/ etchings to remember loved ones by, a semi-truck, diving board, and etc.  Orville used to draw the etchings, but now Ron is able to manipulate the drawings electronically. We still use Orville’s artwork.

Carole Bealer and her son Ron Bealer

Carole and her son Ron

The Kalispell location opened in 2002 next to Moose’s Saloon.  A local caretaker, Sexton, urged Carole and Ron to open a Kalispell location stating the people here needed another choice. The Cut Bank store is only open 2 days a week now.  We are very blessed that we are able to serve people on both sides of the Continental Divide.  The locals respect that and are very patient.

Carole’s role at Glacier Signs and Monuments is that of consultant and salesperson. “I try to make this difficult time easier for them.  I ask them about their loved one so we can personalize their headstone, depicting who they were in their life.”

People do come in to have their own headstones designed in order to have one less thing for their family members to take care of when they are gone.  We try to tell people this is very important, like a will or any other end-of-life arrangements. We can sit down and design artwork and letter styles.  People can bring in photos to have digitized for their stones. Glacier Signs and Monuments can make the memorials at the time of order for a later date, or they can hold the order to be completed when needed.

I asked Carole if it was difficult to transition from waiting tables to an office job.  She laughed and said that it wasn’t too difficult. “I loved waiting tables and serving people.  If my customers were in a bad mood, I would do my very best to make them happy before they left. I love being in the kitchen. Some people like to knit or crochet, but not me. I find cooking and baking relaxing. I am a scratch kind of girl.  I make my food with good wholesome ingredients and cook it with love. Helping people with monuments isn’t that much different.

In both cases, I am serving people. Whether it is serving food or helping family members design monuments for their loved ones, I am still offering comfort.
Carole’s favorite part of the business is seeing contentedness of customers who have created a headstone they are proud of. “People will come and sit down with Ron and play an active part in the design of their monument.  By the end of the process you know exactly what the headstone will look like.  Some companies just scratch it out on paper – not us. Customers are supplied with a digital image of what the stone will look like.  Another positive thing we do is put the name on the back of the stone at no charge.  The advantage is being able to identify the marker regardless of what direction you are approaching it from.

I asked Carole about the advantage of designing your own headstone well in advance of actually needing it. “I think the most important benefit is the gift you give your family.  There will be no conflict on choosing the stone, since each member has a different connection with the loved one.  Taking care of this in advance removes any guesswork and gives the family peace of mind.  Knowing that your family will not have to worry about these confusing and stressful decisions while they are reeling from their loss is a true gift. Likewise, knowing you carried out your loved ones wishes when they are gone is very comforting as well.

When asked about some of the challenges in helping people see that a memorial is more than just names  and dates, Carole explains, “The majority of society has a morbid viewpoint about my line of business.  They think it is a very depressing job.  They couldn’t be further from the truth.  It is not depressing at all.  I am invited into a very personal part of my customer’s lives.  I am given the honor of helping leave a legacy for generations to come. I encourage people to include a picture on the grave marker so that later people can say, “That’s what my grandmother looked like.” We feel so empty when we lose a loved one. This helps with that void.

Carole Bealer golfing in Banff, Alberta

Carole golfing in Banff, Alberta

“I feel that I am helping preserve history.  I assure our customers that is ok to take their time when designing a memorial.  I never feel any time is wasted when someone wants to express their love in a design. Preserving history is part of the reason why we use granite that will be around for hundreds of years. One quarry we use throws away 90% of what they dig out of the ground because it has to stand the test of time – countertop material is so thin they have to glue a mesh under it so it won’t break.  When the stone is 6 inches thick, it can’t have any cracks, it has to be what you call monument grade granite.  It comes in different colors and we will do our best to get the color you want if we don’t have it.  We get it out of South Dakota, Georgia, Vermont, Texas, and Canada.  People like the character and uniqueness of the Dakota granite around here.
I have known Ron and Carole for many years.  One of the first things I noticed is how well Carole and her son work together. Carole  stresses the importance of family and the importance of supporting one another. Ron wanted to learn how to scuba dive and he needed a partner. In the past he had been paired with smokers who  were unable to stay 30 feet below the water’s surface, and in order to enjoy the experience fully, he needed a partner that could keep up with him.  That was all the encouragement Carole needed, she got her certification and joined Ron on his adventures. We have dived with the dolphins in the Bahamas (one of the most awesome experiences of my life), Cabo San Lucas and Cozumel.

Carole carries her love of serving into her volunteer work. I love helping others.  This morning at 7:00 am I was out taking care of my little ladies that need some encouragement by reading the Bible to them.  I enjoy going into retirement homes and spending time with the residents learning their stories and letting them know that I care about them. My object in my volunteer work is to comfort people for the future.  There’s a hope in the Bible that you don’t hear every day. No matter our circumstances, we all need hope and comfort.

In her free time Carole likes to study. “In order to help people, I have to replenish myself.  I truly believe that in order to serve others, you have to take care of your needs first.  Knowledge truly is power.”

After spending most of her life on the prairies of eastern Montana, Carole is happy to call the Flathead home. “I have put up with the wind for 62 years and I love the stillness of the Flathead.  I will always be pulled back to Cut Bank because that is where my story began and I still care for the people who call it home.

In closing, Carole would like to encourage you to count your blessings everyday not just during the holiday season. She has realized the importance of recognizing the beauty in our lives and living a life of gratitude.

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Taken from Montana Woman November 2012 Cover Story written by Cindy O’Boyle

 

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