Kahlotus men trying to get grave Memory Markers set in motion

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldMay 25, 2014 

Two Kahlotus men have an idea they would like to get off the ground by getting more people to put it in the ground.

Life Story Memory Markers are 2-by-8-inch strips placed in holes in concrete next to headstones in graveyards, complete with photos and genealogical information about the deceased.

Don Joersz patented the idea in 1974, and has been selling the product for 12 years.

"What's so good about them is they're waterproof paper," he said.

Seven of the markers have been sold for tombstones in the Kahlotus cemetery. Joersz, who worked for the cemetery for more than 40 years, has sold some to friends from as far away as Oregon and Montana. But he hopes that a partnership with Lee Chism of Kahlotus will increase the popularity.

Chism is financing the markers, though he admits his attention has been diverted toward opening his new bar -- Susie's Wagon Wheel Saloon -- in downtown Kahlotus. He plans to spend more time on Memory Markers now that the tavern is running.

"We're trying to plug 'em along," he said.

Chism decided to come on as a partner for the Memory Markers late in 2013 after seeing them in the cemetery.

"I said, 'If you want to do something, I think it's pretty cool,' " he recalled telling Joersz.

Memory Markers now has an office in the building that houses the bar, and a website that's about halfway finished, Chism said.

The venture has run into friction from makers of headstones. Joersz said they would like to partner with monument makers, but the other businesses feel threatened.

"They're afraid we're trying to cut away their business, but we're trying to assist them," he said. "All they tell is the date of birth, date of death and their name. We tell the whole story of the person."

Memory Markers, with a list price of $139.95, are also less expensive than headstones.

One company copied the idea for Memory Markers, but tried to use equipment that would relay information on the deceased person to a cellphone. Joersz said that idea proved to be too expensive compared to his simple product.

The partners are making an effort to market the markers to families of veterans. They make them with a hole on top so a small flag can fly from the marker. Memory Markers will even provide free replacement flags to the families.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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