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December 6, 2002
Cracked tomb to get same stone
 

 Crack In Tomb of the Unknowns
Photo by Dennis Ryan

A crack in the Tomb of the Unknowns will result in its replacement by a stone from the same quarry.
by Dennis Ryan, Pentagram staff writer

The Tomb of the Unknowns had its origins in an ancient seabed that is now a 300-foot thick formation of marble high in the Colorado Rockies. Once again it's time to return to that same mass of stone to replace the sacred monument.

Rex Loesby, operator of the Yule Quarry in Granite Colorado, asked to see the Tomb of the Unknowns up close, when visiting Arlington National Cemetery in 1990. He arrived early in the morning before the Sentinels began their ritual.

Officials granted Loesby such privilege because in 1931 his company provided the block of marble that became the Tomb. The mineral company president and quarry owner noticed cracks in the marble.

"I said [to cemetery officials] 'we might have to think about replacing this one day,' " Loesby said. "When they first quarried the stone there was a crack, a small white line. Water gets in over the years and causes a crack [to grow]."

The high quality Yule marble, famous for its pure white background and golden veining, used for the outside of the Lincoln Memorial, had been closed since 1941.

World War II and the change to building with steel and glass after the war caused the company to close until 1990. The quarry employed 1,500 people during its heyday, but now employs only 10.

Loesby said a 175-ton block was cut out of quarry the last time and a similar size piece would be found this time before being pared to a more manageable 50 tons for the trip to the fabricators.

Cemetery officials in fact had first noticed a flaw in the 1930's, according to Arlington Superintendent Jack Metzler. Reports were written in 1967 and 1989. The second report recommended either replacing the tomb or encasing it in a weatherproof structure.

"The quarry called us and told us they were mining again in the original area where the tomb came from," Metzler said. "We were interested in a replacement block and were just waiting for the right moment."

Metzler mentioned there is a second line running through the three Greek figurines adorning the front of the tomb and he doesn't want to delay the replacement process.

The work should take two to four weeks to remove the old tomb and replace it. The remains are underneath a solid block of granite and will not be disturbed. The work will be finished within one to two years according to the superintendent.

John Haines, 58, a retired Chevrolet dealership owner in nearby Glenwood Springs, read about the reopening of the quarry in the local paper and how it was connected to the original Tomb of the Unknowns. Learning about the present state of the tomb prompted him to donate $31,000 for a new one.

"I wanted to say [to veterans] I appreciate what you have done [to veterans]," Haines said. "This is no repayment. It's just a gift."

The local community is joining the effort. Harry's Heavy Haulers of Rifle, Colo. has agreed to transport the marble to the finishing shop, wherever that may be, for no charge.

A Colorado Caterpillar dealer has offered to donate a trailer and paint it red, white and blue.

The Yule quarry is looking for just the right piece of marble in the same spot as the last tomb came from. Loesby spoke about the process.

"It's just a matter of quarrying the right spot," He said. "It's there. We have a few vets working at the quarry. We're excited. The whole town of Marble, 85 people, is excited. The marble is very high quality. We are able to produce large blocks."
 

Posted: 22 December 2002