By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
For 57 years Billy Lucas has made sure the granite tributes to those who have passed that come from the workshop of Edgerton Memorials in Dunn are right.
From making sure the name on the stone is correct all the way down to seeing to it that the letters are aligned properly, he has kept a watchful eye and steady hand at the ready.
But that’s just one facet of the jobs he’s found himself doing since he began working for current owner Cecil Edgerton’s grandfather in 1960.
It was a journey that began simply because he needed a job.
“I just started doing it,” he said. “I did the carving, I hauled stones out of Georgia on a tractor- trailer and now I’m putting up stones and cutting out death dates.”
His modest description of what he has done and continues to do is a subtle understatement to the importance.
“What I learned doing in here I learned from him,” Cecil Edgerton said. “I didn’t know anything. He started here in 1960 and has been here through thick and thin. He’s been with us through lean times and has stuck it out.”
His design and sandblasting duties have been lessened over the years. Mr. Edgerton does most of the designing and the sandblasting is done by others in the shop.
That hasn’t lessened his satisfaction about what he’s done through the years. He’s designed and set grave markers for politicians and other high-profile people along with monuments and mausoleums.
He had a hand in the design of the monuments that sit on both Averasboro and Bentonville battlefields as well as the aboveground final resting spots.
See Monumental, Page 3
Billy Lucas has been making sure the words and designs on granite grave stones, monuments and mausoleums are correct since he began working for Edgerton Memorials in 1960.
Daily Record Photo/Rick Curl Monumental
Continued From Page One
“We’ve put up Jesse Helms’ stone, we put up Charles Kuralt’s, we put up Jim Hunt’s mom and daddy’s stone and a lot of good people,” he said. “A lot of good people that we’ve had to do.”
Two amazing things about his work, he’s never had any formal training and never taken much time off.
“It looked like they just started me off and went to it,” he said. “I’ve been working all that time and never got hurt messing with this heavy stuff.”
The part about never missing work is truly amazing considering some of the hazards of the job he’s had to endure over the years.
“When we started out we had to knock the stones off the truck and roll them in a hand cart,” he said. “But now we do have a crane on the back of the truck. It makes it a lot easier.”
Working directly on the stones wasn’t really his first job with the company that began in New Bern, moved to Clinton then ended up in Dunn.
“He’s covered the whole gamut of sunup to sunset or sunset to sunup,” Mr. Edgerton said, “whichever way you want to put it.”
It wasn’t until after the company settled in Dunn that he became responsible for the stone work.
“I started when we came back from Clinton to Dunn,” he said. “I’d already done a little when we were in Clinton. But when I got back to Dunn I did a lot of the work on it.”
Like with most any other professions, technology evolved and made his work with the stones themselves a little easier.
“We used to have to draw the designs on the stones,” he said. “Now we’ve got computers that make these emblems and such.”
You can still see the pride he carries over from the days where he had to hand draw all of the images and letters that were adorned forever on the stones.
“I would take my pencil and draw them,” he said as he demonstrated the technique. “I could take a pencil and draw a flower.”
He just offers a smile when you look at the designs that lay waiting to be cut into the stones.
“I just started doing it,” he said. “Some of them didn’t look very good at first. I never got too many complaints and I’ve done a pretty good job, I reckon. And I’ve always enjoyed it.”
His enjoyment has translated into complete satisfaction with what he’s done over the years.
“There’s one thing about it, the family can look back at all of the stuff that I have done,” he said. “It would be kind of history, I reckon.”
Longevity in the workplace seems to run in his family. His sister, Evelyn Langston, recently retired after 63 years in the Harnett County Schools.
“So, I reckon it’s in the generations,” he said. “All of our family really worked. We farmed with mules, I’ve plowed with mules many a times.”
Mr. Lucas says he has no plans to retire from working even though most men 80 years old would contemplate leaving it all behind.
“Lately, I’ve been telling Cecil it’s about time for me to retire, but he says no,” Mr. Lucas said. “I enjoy it and I’m not one that can hang around and do nothing. I’d rather be doing something.”
There’s absolutely no doubt Mr. Lucas loves his work. He says the only time he’s taken off over the years is to pursue things related to his hobby.
In his spare time he’s also a Revolutionary War Re-enactor. He’s a part of a group that re-enacts artillery. He’s certified to fire black powder cannon’s from the time period.
Because of that hobby, he was asked to fire cannons in the battle scenes in the Mel Gibson movie “The Patriot.”
Since 1972 he’s donned the clothing of the period and went to different venues firing off cannons. So, it was only natural he would end up doing the same thing in a film that was partially made in Rock Hill, S.C.
“I’d go down and film three days then come back to work,” he said. “They hired me to fire the cannons, then they needed soldiers in the lines, so I went into the lines.”
During the movie’s climatic scene where Mel Gibson’s character kills his nemesis in hand-tohand combat, Mr. Lucas was there.
“I was down at the bottom of the hill firing one of the cannons,” he said.
“I was actually too old for the movie but they needed cannon crews, I was probably 60 when it was filmed.”
That wasn’t the only movie he’s plied his hobby for. He appeared in two other motion pictures — “Tecumseh” and “The World Turned Upside Down.”
“One was more about how they treated the Indians and made them move,” he said. “The other was about George Washington’s life.”
When you ask him to sum up the life he’s led so far, Mr. Lucas agrees it wasn’t really boring or mundane.
“It was interesting and I’ve enjoyed it all,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed meeting people in the cemeteries and talking to people — and helping people.”