story by Julie Bagley
When Arkansas-native, author, publisher and editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown died in August, a business far removed from the high-society trappings of New York City created her monument.
For the Brown family, picking Springdale-based Emerson Monument to memorialize Brown was a natural choice. The company had created Helen’s husband’s monument two years before.
David Brown was a film and theatre producer most notably known for The Sting, Cocoon and Driving Miss Daisy. His monument was set in Green Forest, Ark., and a funeral home reached out to Emerson. They designed the monument with a hand-drawn Academy Award figurine.
“They were pleased with our service,” said Alison Raymer, owner of Emerson.
Helen was born in Green Forest, Ark., and her father served as a commissioner on the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.
When Helen died in August 2012, Raymer said Helen’s cousin asked her company to do Helen’s monument as well.
Helen had some specific ideas about what she wanted on her marker before she died. During the 1960s, she was outspoken for women’s sexual freedom. She famously-proclaimed that women could have it all, “love, sex and money.” She was the original Carrie Bradshaw and wrote Sex and the Single Girl in 1962. It was published in 28 countries and was on the bestsellers list for more than a year. In 1965, she became editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan.
It was said when she entered a room she didn’t address women as ladies, women or girls. Instead she would call them pussy cat. This is how the iconic cat came to be on her marker. It has been said Helen would sign her name and sometimes the cat as her signature. The cat’s name was Lovey.
“We had trouble finding a picture even though it was an icon to her,” said Raymer.
The cat was so unusual that there’s no clip art in the world that could come close. She found a picture of the cat ironically on the cover of a 1970s Cosmo. A model was sporting a T-shirt with Lovey. The company had to enlarge the magazine cover and draw the cat by hand.
“We had to make some tweaks to make it work on the granite. It’s difficult to work on the sand-blast lines,” said Raymer.
Another condition Helen wanted incorporated was her favorite color, pink.
“It had to be pink. We chose a morning rose granite with quartz so when the morning sun hits the monument it’s illuminated,” said Raymer.
She said working on this particular monument was a highlight for her.
“I grew up reading Cosmo. To work on her and her husband’s monument was a big deal,” Raymer explained.
While it will be forever remembered, Raymer said the Browns didn’t receive special treatment because of their status.
“No matter who comes through our doors, we listen to what was important to them. We can do things by-hand for anyone and it’s our goal to have them pleased in the end.”
Emerson monument has been in business since 1914. Raymer and her husband bought the business six years ago. Since then, other notable people have chosen their company to create markers.
One includes a state politician and most recently, 6-year-old Jersey Bridgeman, the Bentonville girl who was in November allegedly murdered by her neighbor.
“Making monuments for kids are the hard days but I wake-up every morning and love to come to work. I feel like I get to help people,” Raymer said.