Decal Junky - Article in The New York Times


In the Rear Window, Tributes to the Dead

By ALLISON ENGEL December 11, 20050 PALM DESERT, Calif. - WHEN David Atchison, a high school senior from Palm Desert, Calif., died in a car accident in April, one of the first things his brother and friends did was begin designing his memorial decal. They came up with two designs, working on a computer at a decal kiosk at a local mall, and the day before the funeral, they presented them to his parents. Friends and family members could buy their own at the kiosk, where the design was kept on file.

"I think it's beautiful," Mr. Atchison's mother, Gina, said. "About a month after it happened, I went to the high school and almost every car had a sticker. It moved me and put me to tears. I called my husband and said, 'You need to drive to the parking lot and see this.

For years drivers in Southern California have been using their cars as whizzing classified ads, announcing everything from house cleaning to property for sale to weight-loss plans. But these days car owners are increasingly using their vehicles as rolling tombstones, placing personalized memorial decals with names, dates of birth and death, and brief sentiments on their rear windows. Sometimes they add crosses or angels, the kind usually chiseled on gravestones.

Dozens of Internet sites make it easy to custom-design such decals. Suzanne Thomas, co-owner of Custom Signs Decal Junky of Columbus, Miss., said she gets orders for memorial decals every day from her Web site (, and ships them all over the country. "When we started our Web site three or four years ago, we didn't even think of memorial decals," she said. "Now, it's about 20 to 30 percent of our business."

Lately, she added, she has been selling a lot of war memorials, such as the 50 decals that a woman ordered in memory of her nephew who had been killed in Iraq.