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High-tech headstones contain QR code with information on loved one | TribLIVE.com
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High-tech headstones contain QR code with information on loved one

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, July 21, 2012 9:28 p.m
USNEWSFANCYHEADSTONES2MS
Norm Taple uses a smartphone to scan a QR code that is embedded in his grandfather's headstone in B'Nai Emet Cemetery in Richfield, Minn. The codes can be put on gravestones to direct smart phones to Web pages with information on the deceased. Minneapolis Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Karen Shragg didn’t go with traditional granite for her grandmother’s headstone.

She went high-tech.

The marker features a QR code that allows visitors to a Richfield, Minn., cemetery to read her grandmother’s biography and view photographs of her, as well.

“This is just fantastic,” Shragg said. “It’s revolutionary.”

The idea of sticking a QR code onto a headstone is the brainchild of a Twin Cities-based outfit determined to drag the industry into the 21st century.

More than just a marketing gambit aimed at a techno-obsessed society, it’s an opportunity to document family stories before they fade away, said Norm Taple, president of Katzman Monument Co., which debuted the QR codes in 2011. His company is believed to be one of four in the nation offering the QR code service.

“It’s a chance for future generations to make a connection with a loved one,” Taple said. “There’s no emotional connection when all you can look at is a headstone, probably a dirty headstone, at that. We’ve got people telling their own stories, speaking directly to future generations.”

The QR code allows people with smartphones to access a website paying tribute to the dearly departed. Cemetery visitors can read the deceased’s biography, study their family tree, look at pictures or watch videos of them talking about their lives.

The practice grew out of the surging popularity of memorial videos — sometimes called legacy or end-of-life-videos — in which people tape messages to be played at their funerals. Taple wondered why videos should be limited to funerals.

Thus was born the “interactive memorial.” It’s accessed via the QR code, which is on a 1 12-inch-square sticker, similar to the renewal tabs used on license plates, that can be attached anywhere on the tombstone. It’s free with the purchase of a headstone from Katzman Monument, or you can add it to an tombstone for $150.

“As long as a cemetery is in an area with cellphone coverage — which these days is just about everywhere — it will work,” he said.

Taple’s company has been around for a little more than a year. Or a little more than 77 years, depending on how you count.

It was started by Taple’s grandfather, Jack Katzman, who opened shop at the corner of 19th Street and Nicollet Avenue in 1935. In 1981, with no one in the family interested in taking over the business, he closed it. Taple, his brother, Loren, and a longtime family friend, Michael Gregerson, decided to “reconstitute” the company, but in a technology-centric mode.

Instead of a brick-and-mortar showroom — which none of them could staff because they all have full-time jobs — they set up shop as an online business. Customers who log on to their website, katzmanmonument.com, can do everything electronically, including uploading photographs or other artwork to be etched into the granite.

“There are still companies where, when you walk in, there’s a guy with a pencil and pad of sketch paper,” he said. “This is an industry that has been missing the boat as far as the rest of the world goes.”

Depending on how computer-savvy you are or how complex you want to make the memorial, you can do it yourself or arrange for the monument company to do it for you, either piecemeal or in its entirety.

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