Laying the Foundation
Before launching their monument company, Rocky worked as a funeral director and embalmer. After a few years, however, he and Barbara decided to explore opportunities that would offer their family a better work-life balance. Hoping to remain in the same industry, Rocky took a chance on selling monuments. Starting with the little experience he gained from working for a funeral home in high school, he went door to door to visit families and discuss memorials for their loved ones, often sitting down with them to sketch their ideas and provide a picture of what they envisioned. For four years, Rocky and Barbara operated their budding monument business from home until they constructed their own building in 1982.
As their company began to grow, they kept their focus on caring for their clients by remembering all those in-home visits. “I look back and wonder how 40 years have passed so quickly,” Barbara said. “Once word got around that we provided memorial and architectural engraving, business grew.”
Over the years, the Choates have completed a multitude of projects, from mausoleums and pet memorials to monuments that look like guitars and R2-D2 shaped headstones. “It’s always exciting to receive a challenging order,” Barbara said. “When customers bring us their unique ideas, we do all we can to bring their vision to life while handling their order with compassion and care.”
Leaving Their Mark
In 2013, however, it was Rocky and Barbara’s turn to receive compassion and care. After more than 30 years of managing their business, Rocky suffered a severe stroke, leaving him unable to continue running the company. Barbara began operating the business on her own until 2016, when her daughter and son-in-law, Kim and Chris Ross ’94, approached her about taking over.
“It seemed like a divinely appointed resolution for us to begin running the business,” said Chris, “and we felt confident in our decision even though it was new to us. Since we started in January 2017, we’ve put our own gifts and interests to use in the business.”
Previously, Kim worked as a nurse while Chris taught classes at a local high school and Houston Baptist University. “In creating a memorial, there’s an emotional aspect to every order you receive, so you must be kind, courteous and respectful,” Kim said. “Having been a nurse before, I bring in that nurturing side, and Chris brings his artistic ability. In joining those two traits, we hope we can be as successful as my parents have been in this industry.”
For Kim, pouring her talents into the company allows her to continue the legacy her father started so many years ago. “It truly is an honor to carry out my dad’s tradition of excellence and commitment to serving others,” Kim said. “Everything we create is meant to last more than a lifetime, so we feel the weight of what we do. We’re literally leaving our mark, and we want every single project to be perfect.”