Bradford, PA has a great tradition of preserving history and honoring the past. Different community organizations and non-profits such as the Bradford Landmark Society are renowned in Western Pennsylvania for their work in this area. However, private business has its own unique contributions it makes towards the preservation of our local history. Among those businesses at the top of that list is Wright Monumental Works, Inc. or Wright Monuments, for short.
Simply by operating out of the same location and with the same attention to detail and excellence as they always have, Wrights preserves our town’s history in a special and significant way. One step into the “showroom” and you can almost feel the presence of the past families who have walked through there making important decisions of how to honor their deceased loved ones. The process of guiding these people through the decision of how to memorialize those who have passed away is one of Ralph’s greatest joys. Ralph bought the business in 1987 from his father and has worked in the business since childhood. However, after all these years I was able to see first-hand how personally he still approaches every memorial that passes through the doors.
When I sat down with Ralph and his daughter Kelly Platko, who he brought into the business in 2020 (along with her Husband Mark), I was able to spend some of the time simply watching them work the day-to-day operations. Of course, Marshall Insurance is also family business so there is lot to admire and learn from in watching the father/daughter duo at work. The main difference is that this business is in its 4th generation, while we are currently on our 2nd. Marshall Insurance could only hope to have a portion of the longevity and legacy that Wright’s has earned for itself through the years.
I spent a lot of time talking to Ralph about the craftsmanship and art behind the memorials he has worked on. He emphasized that Wright Monument is much, much more than a creator of cemetery stones. Looking through the portfolio, I was blown away by some of the works the business has created throughout the years. Pitt-Bradford’s well-known granite entrance sign, the Zippo 75th anniversary “recognition flame”, and many of Bradford’s largest and most intricate mausoleums and statues were all created here.
Considering some of the large projects Wrights has taken on, I was shocked when Ralph said Donald Raabe’s headstone was one of his favorite pieces in the local cemetery. The headstone is simple yet understated in its beauty. One must look closely to truly appreciate the attention to detail and craftsmanship present in the granite memorial. Considering this is a family member’s stone, I always found it to be beautiful, however I was glad to hear it wasn’t just my bias. I found this to be symbolic of the Wright/Platko approach to doing business through the years. Keeping things simple, focusing on the details, and staying family oriented has led not only to beautiful memorials but also to 107 years of business success.