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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My heart sank when I read the letter from "Daughter From Westfield, N.J.," who was obviously deeply hurt by the way the "monument designer" had signed her father's headstone. While I wholeheartedly support "Daughter's" right to remove the "metal business card," I would like to express the basis for this practice in the memorial industry.

I am a Certified Memorialist who takes great pride in what my staff of artists and I create for the families we serve. We view the memorials we design, engrave and erect for public viewing as everlasting works of memorial art. As all artists do, we want to sign our creations. I have seen this type of craftsman identification in many other areas, such as custom cabinets and furniture, public buildings and in many forms of art. Many times in my 18-year career, I have sought to affirm this method by asking the families if they approve of our placing this identification on their memorial, and I have never had a negative response.

Perhaps "Daughter" didn't see it from this perspective and viewed the monument designer as just a salesperson instead of a craftsman. It is also possible that the "metal business card" that was used wasn't tasteful or discreet. Whatever the case, I defend her right to remove it. I just hope my letter helps her and your readers understand why my peers and I will continue to sign our works of memorial art. -- CERTIFIED MEMORIALIST IN INDIANA

DEAR MEMORIALIST: Your letter is informative, and thank you for it. However, I suspect the reason you receive such positive reaction when you ask grieving families if they approve of your signing the gravestones is that you had the courtesy to ask. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am a caretaker at a cemetery. Those small metal tags on headstones are there for a reason. They have the company name and telephone number on them. They are usually placed on the BACK of the stone in a very discreet spot. They are not intended to be "advertising." They are most often used by caretakers. If anything should happen to the stone, such as weather damage, vandalism, deterioration, whatever, we just have to look at the number on the back of the stone and call the company.

The daughter did a foolish thing when she removed the metal tag from her father's headstone. Please correct this error before people run to their loved ones' headstones to remove the metal tag. -- BUSY CARETAKER IN NORTHWEST IOWA

DEAR BUSY CARETAKER: I checked with the Funeral Consumers Alliance and was informed that those little metal tags are unacceptable unless displayed discreetly on the back of the headstone, rather than the front.

DEAR ABBY: "Britney," the boss's daughter (and my co-worker), lies, exaggerates and gossips about other workers on their days off. I recently overheard her tell a new employee -- in Spanish -- how much she dislikes me. Britney isn't aware that I, too, speak Spanish fluently.

Abby, I feel very uncomfortable working with her. I hesitate to say anything to her about this, because she will probably get mad and tell her mother. Should I keep quiet, or should I say something to Britney? -- TALKED ABOUT IN WISCONSIN

DEAR TALKED ABOUT: Get your resume together. Then, by all means, say something to Britney -- in Spanish.

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