Sculptor carves out handmade headstones for brothers who died months apart

Most days, when the weather is warm, he chisels away at his oversized easel outside his rural Vermont studio, hoping to attract the attention of passing drivers.


For more than 11 years, on the side of a rural Vermont road, Julian Isaacson can often be seen chiseling away.

"(I'm outside) most of the day, I mean four to five hours at a time," Isaacson said, who's a sculptor who lives and works along the scenic byway.

Most days, when the weather is warm, Isaacson chisels away at his oversized easel outside his studio, hoping to attract the attention of passing drivers.

"I wanted people to see art in action," he said. "People (stop and) say, 'What are you?' I'm an artist!"

Isaacson is somewhat of a fixture along the side of the road, working outdoors on his meticulous craft.

His presence attracted the attention of 26-year-old Christian Thompson before he died in July.

"Julian always had these beautiful rottweilers that would be out playing," said Christian's mother, Melissa Thompson. "My son loved dogs."

When Thompson lost her son, she turned to the man with a familiar face.

"I didn’t even know if Julian did headstones," she said.

She quickly enlisted her younger son, 21-year-old Keanan, to help approve the design.

When the proof was ready, Keanan approved.

"He said, 'Wow, that's amazing,'" Melissa said.

A day after Keanan approved his brother's headstone design, he was killed in a tragic hit-and-run crash.

Melissa was scheduled to meet Isaacson the next morning to pay her deposit. She didn't show.

"She followed up with an email saying she'd lost her other son," Isaacson said. "It was kind of like an emotional atomic bomb."

In the coming days, the sculptor was, again, tasked with creating a memorial for the Thompson family — this time for Keanan.

"I had to have some kind of level ... like this is something he wanted, or would've wanted," Isaacson said. "The fact that he OK'd (Christian's) gave me the nerve to say, 'OK, let's see what else we can do here.'"

Slowly, carefully, Isaacson is now making another monument, one fragment of marble at a time.

"It gives me a lot of peace, just to know that (Isaacson's headstone) is going to be the mark of them," Melissa Thompson said.

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