Facility Profile - September 2009
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The Power of Remembering

Martha Shannen Reid Memorial in Austin, Texas

By Dawn Klingensmith

Red was Martha Shannen's favorite color. She was buried in her red jeans because she would have liked that. Designing the garden, Lambe was sure to include some red flowering plants, such as cherry sage and yucca.

The red benches provide for a nice contrast against green elements of the school's exterior. A plaque on each bench pays tribute to the girl who played French horn, had a soft spot for animals and aspired to be a fashion designer. One says, "In honor of our friend and band member." The other has lyrics from a Jonas Brothers song: "When you look me in the eyes, I catch a glimpse of heaven."

Martha Shannen claimed to love the Jonas Brothers more than anyone else on the planet. The Jonas Brothers were even mentioned in her obituary, along with other things she enjoyed, such as chili con queso and the TV series "Project Runway."

Normally, the Finches have someone else deliver site furnishings, but because Debbie Finch had gotten to know Kate Reid over the phone and knew the harrowing details surrounding her loss, she wanted to deliver them personally. Charles Finch installed the benches, which weigh about 400 pounds. Charles Finch's installation experience and elbow grease were offered for free.

"We're a really small company, but we were extremely happy to be able to help with the installation," Debbie Finch said, adding that a few tears were shed when the garden was completed, about a year after the March 2008 car accident.

Community members have since suggested that a Martha Shannen Reid memorial garden be created at the elementary school from which she graduated, because the younger siblings of Martha Shannen's friends also were traumatized by her death. This time, the memorial will be part of a larger garden several mothers are planting on the school grounds to teach kids about growing food and tending plants. And it will be especially meaningful because Martha Shannen's older brother, Jack, has undertaken the project for his Eagle Scout eligibility.

There will be at least one bench, meaning the Reids will have at least one more opportunity to try to sum up their daughter's wonderful, music-filled, too-short life on a little gold-tone plaque.

Something profound might be in order. But what about the everyday things? What about her love of the outdoors? What about how naturally and often she smiled, as though it were her default facial expression?

She loved animals and wanted to save the polar bears.

She loved volleyball, dancing and writing.

She wanted to write a novel. She wanted to study fashion design in London. She wanted to be the next American Idol.

But plaques on benches are too small to list all of those. Those memories must be spoken, and in either of Martha Shannen's two memorial gardens, her friends and family will have a tranquil place to do so.


West Ridge Middle School: wrms.eanes.k12.tx.us

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