BY MIKE LEONARD
Judy Elliott’s blue eyes sparkle when she talks about taking out her 34-foot boat with her lady friends in the area surrounding her Naples, Florida, winter home and occasionally watching the men at the marina chortle about whether the women are going to run the boat into the dock.
“That’s when I turn her around and back her in,” she says. “Sometimes they applaud.”
Elliott has been defying stereotypes as long as she can remember and certainly since she and her late husband, Dave, founded Elliott Stone Company near Bedford, Indiana, in 1957. From buying slabs of limestone to acquiring quarries to inventing equipment that makes it possible to harvest stone underground year-round, Elliott has been a hands-on partner. “If we needed somebody on a forklift, I’d drive the forklift,” she says.
At age 83, Elliott still scampers in and out of her massive pickup truck with ease as she gives a tour of the unusual underground Elliott quarry. She can describe every piece of equipment, where it came from, what it cost, and every quarrying technique and product involving the company. “I love the limestone business. I really do,” she says.
Elliott Stone Company now owns 1,000 acres of limestone-laced property in Lawrence and Monroe counties, specializing in the versatile Salem limestone that was used in the Washington National Cathedral, the Lincoln Memorial, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and the Tribune Tower.
Born Judith Ellen Turner in Bloomington in 1932, Elliott graduated from Indiana University in 1954 with a teaching degree in business and physical education. “But really, I was an activities major,” she jokes. She was president of Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Association of Women Students, a member of Mortar Board and several other student groups, and an all-around athlete who later in life would win the Bedford Ladies City Championship golf tournament. “Any day I don’t have a lot written down to do, I’m just bored as can be,” she says.
When her husband died in 2009, official control of the business was turned over to the couple’s four children, but Elliott remains a visible and active presence. “I feel like I have the best of all possible worlds, to be in the stone business and have all of my children involved. We still have family dinners just like families that aren’t in business together,” she says. “No problems.”