Over 75 years of exceptional design, expert craftsmanship and care for the people and places across the Great Plains.
Every community, every person has a story to tell
At Willis Granite, we tell the stories of lives and legacies, engraving them in stone so future generations can honor and remember the past. Whether you need a small office plaque, a cemetery marker, a public memorial or anything in between we can help from concept to finished monument.
When it all got started
The year WWII ended, J.R. Willis purchased the central part of Headquarters Mountain at the north edge of Granite, Oklahoma. His purchase included the granite quarry, the monument processing plant and sales office.
The family business began to take shape as both of J.R.’s sons joined the company. Bill Willis established a monument company in Stillwater. Fred served as the Quarry Foreman from the mid-1950’s until his retirement in 1989.
Expansion with the Pellow Brothers Quarry
In 1948, Willis purchased the Pellow Brothers Quarry – which had produced notable family and historical monuments including a marker for the state of Oklahoma that was inlaid in the stairway at the Washington Monument in D.C.
During the 1940’s and 1950’s, the Willis-Pellow Brothers firm grew to include a sales area within a 300 mile radius of Granite. They supplied the granite to increase the height of the W.C. Austin Dam at Lake Lugert and placed a truncated obelisk at the highest point in Oklahoma in the Black Hills near Boise City.
Transforming the industry
In 1964, Bill, his wife, Ellen, and their four children moved to Granite to assist J.R. with production and sales. They brought with them the belief that every family monument was a history in stone to be shared with future generations. What would future generations want to know about their great-great grandfather and grandmother? More than just the year they were born and died.
Bill and Ellen were among the first in the memorial industry to begin incorporating family histories, pictures, scenes of life, heritage and beliefs into the design of a family memorial. Artwork was created that told a story. They wanted cemeteries to become places where you can go to see a history of community through time. This belief was passed down to the Willis daughters, Karen, Linda and Brenda. It remains a core part of our outlook to this day.
Throughout the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, the Willis family continued to establish themselves as leading artists in the memorial industry. They were instrumental in creating Veterans Memorials, Civic Memorials, Historical Markers and awards across the states of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Tennessee.
The Giants of the Great Plains
In 1979, J.R. and Bill developed a concept for three notable Oklahomans to be engraved as a granite mosaic and then placed on the edge of Headquarters Mountain. The three Oklahomans selected were Will Rogers, Sequoyah and Jim Thorpe.
The design called for full length figures to be used which would stand 120 feet tall. In 1979, there were no computers available to help with producing such a large portrait. The Willis team used a graph system, beginning with 1.5 inch squares and transposing the design to the final 24×24 inch tiles. Each panel had to be transferred to a stencil to be hand cut and then sandblasted. A dot matrix was used for shading and highlights to give the figure depth.
In November of 1979, the Will Rogers granite mosaic was unveiled. The first phase of The Giants of the Great Plains was completed. In years to come, many attempts were made to complete the project Bill and J.R. originally came up with. Unfortunately, the funding was not available for completion, but people from across the world still come to Granite to see the large granite mosaic of Oklahoma’s favorite son.
The purchase and renaming through the present day
In 1983, Bill, Ellen and their children purchased the monument company from founder J.R. Willis, renaming the company Willis Granite Products, Inc. In time, each of the children returned to work in the family business full-time in their respective areas of talent.
Since then, the Willis family has received national recognition from the memorial industry, winning national design awards and was asked to join the prestigious American Institute of Commemorative Art.
The family has created over 200 portraits for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, located in Stillwater, as well as portraits of donors for the Noble Research Facility at OSU and for the Oklahoma Heritage Hall of Fame. Other works include the Oklahoma Veterans Memorial and many of the historical monuments located at the state capitol and governor’s mansion.
The Willis family has also been part of international projects in the Aleutian Islands, Normandy and Pfaffenhoffen, France. Granite portraits and plaques from right here in the southwest have been given to dignitaries from Japan and Russia.
Today, Willis Granite Products includes the fourth generation of Willis’ to become memorialists and has expanded with sales offices in Granite, Oklahoma City and Stillwater.