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SALT LAKE CITY — Keith MacKay has worked with stone his entire life, including with the stonework on many LDS temples.
But one of his smallest projects is also one of the most important — a monument memorializing the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson.
President Monson died Tuesday at the age of 90. He will be buried Friday in the Salt Lake City Cemetery next to his wife Frances, who died in 2013.
Following her death, a granite monument was installed to honor both of them. It has been in place in the cemetery since 2013.
The solid granite stone was quarried during construction of the Conference Center 20 years ago, and was then cut to serve as a marker for President and Sister Monson, MacKay said.
Many large monuments have been placed in the cemetery over the past 170 years. MacKay, who owns the company overseeing the installation of the monument, said great care was taken to make sure the monument memorializing the Monsons will stand strong for generations.
Workers dug 6 feet to construct the monument and filled it with concrete and steel. It was then tied together with stainless steel rods and threaded so it catches glue. MacKay said it is very, very sturdy.
"You notice all over the cemetery there are so many tipping over," MacKay said, "but this one should not do that."
A smaller headstone is also being prepared to mark President Monson's grave.
MacKay is just a couple of years younger than President Monson and was acquainted with him for most of his life, which makes this stone project even more special.
"President Monson was the most delightful person to be around that you ever met in your life," MacKay said. "He couldn't say anything but good for you. He's a wonderful person. It's a real honor to do his monument. I feel really grateful for it."
MacKay also helped to create and install the monument at the grave of late church President Gordon B. Hinckley, also in the Salt Lake City Cemetery, after President Hinckley passed away 10 years ago.
A public viewing for President Monson will be held in the Conference Center on Thursday, from 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. The funeral, which begins Friday at noon at the Conference Center, is open to the public on a first come-first served basis.