Stonecutter’s tools stolen

The Chronicle, CentraliaMarch 21, 2014 

A benefit is planned for Tenino master stonecarver and artist Keith Phillips, who recently lost valuable tools when a trailer he uses to store them was stolen from his property.

Phillips is well known for his work with sandstone, often called upon for repair work on Capitol Campus buildings, historic courthouses in the region and other projects.

He’s been carving stone locally for the past 30 years, and his work is scattered throughout Southwest Washington, from Chehalis to Aberdeen to Tacoma.

When he arrived at his shop a week ago Wednesday morning at Marenakos Hercules Sandstone, just west of Tenino below a looming quarry wall, a different kind of cutting had taken place.

Burglars had used a bolt cutter to open an entrance gate, then meticulously removed more than $2,000 worth of tools and equipment. About three weeks prior, the locks had also been cut and there was evidence of footprints.

They got away with generators, a compressor and shop tools.

Phillips believed the burglars had been casing the shop to plan the nighttime theft.

“They weren’t malicious,” Phillips said. “A lot of things they could have thrown about and just ravaged the place, but I don’t want to give them any credit. … They took a couple of chain hoists and special lifting bars, obscure things they took that they wouldn’t have noticed in a hurry, and it probably was more than one person. They weren’t going after stonecutting tools. They were going after things in general.”

The burglars also broke into three containers on site owned by the company that operates the quarry, taking miscellaneous heavy equipment tools worth thousands of dollars, according to Phillips.

“These guys are practiced and methodical,” Phillips said. “I’m sure they consider it their business. I’m not the only guy they have been going after.”

For Phillips, the theft set him back at least a week as he retooled his shop. He also has added security on site and believes the burglars won’t be back.

“I haven’t been able to focus on my work,” he said after a long pause. “It’s been a total distraction, very destabilizing with the mental turmoil.”

Phillips, despite the violation of his shop and livelihood, has found positives in the burglary.

“The healing has been improved tremendously and I’m able to get back to work because of the tremendous outpouring of thoughts and concerns and care and love and kindness from everybody in this community,” Phillips said. “All my friends in Tenino, it just wants to make me cry, all the concern and thoughts people have thrown my way. I haven’t lost my faith in people.”

Phillips plans to get back into his routine. He’s finishing up a fireplace, working on a tombstone in Tenino and a monument in Grand Mound.

“I’m just going to go on and do my work here,” he said.

Benefit planned

A benefit for Tenino master stonecarver and artist Keith Phillips is set for 6-9 p.m. April 5 at the Tenino Eagles, 349 Sussex Ave. W., Tenino.

The fundraiser will include a hamburger dinner and live auction. For more information, contact Jude Cryderman, 360-264-4423 or Ronna Barne, 360-951-7938.

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