In a place of springtime tranquility, 14 names are etched in marble tablets, which stand along the winding walkway a few feet above shrubs, plants and a palette full of colorful flowers lightly brushed by fluttering butterflies. It’s hard to imagine now that the serene landscape was just an ordinary yard a year ago at Rosewood Services Inc. A two year process to plan, fundraise, and then build, the Rosewood Memorial Garden was cultivated with care to honor those Rosewood clients who have passed away over the past 13 years during the company’s operation.
A few hundred clients, family, friends and Rosewood employees gathered May 27 to celebrate the lives of those 14 departed clients during an afternoon dedication for the memorial garden. State Rep. Bob Bethell spoke to those in attendance about the joy of learning so much about love and compassion from people with developmental disabilities.
“In my life, I experienced the gift of love from those who often are invisible to others,” Bethell told the crowd. “We know that those with disabilities are often overlooked or not even seen by those considered normal. Yet, it is an opportunity for those of us who interact with the disabled to learn about real love, acceptance, appreciation and gratitude.”
Bethell ended his speech by reading the names of each of the 14 memorialized clients. Those names brought tears of sorrow and joy to many of the loved ones who attended the dedication. The ceremony ended with the release of about 100 butterflies as local songwriter Terry Fellers sang a special tribute appropriately titled, “Butterflies to Heaven.”
Rosewood Services founder Tammy Hammond described the dedication as “very emotional” for Rosewood clients who remembered their departed friends. However, she said the event also served to comfort them, knowing their friends are not forgotten and that they will not be forgotten.
“It’s important for them to know that they will be remembered, too,” said Hammond. “To see this for their friends, they know that they also have a place to be remembered, that they matter to others.”
Another primary purpose of the garden is for family members of the departed clients to continue connecting with their loved ones through Rosewood and its memorial garden.
“I wanted someplace for guardians, parents, sisters, brothers, and other loved ones of those who passed away to know that they can always come here to remember them,” explained Hammond. “They still have that connection to them through this memorial and through us.”
Ron Poppe of Gardner’s Emporium, Great Bend, designed and planted the garden. Hammond said he completed most of the work last summer, but didn’t add the finishing touches until this spring. Poppe, along with Rosewood staff and clients, will coordinate the care of the garden, said Hammond.
The memorial dedication was a half-day celebration, beginning with a lunchtime picnic and activities that included hula hooping and parachute-and-ball games. Meanwhile, the local musician, Fellers strummed his guitar and sang for several hours during the event. At the conclusion of the dedication, people leisurely lingered in the hot sun listening to Feller’s folk songs, reading the marble tablets, talking among friends, and remembering those 14 departed members whose names are indefinitely etched throughout the Rosewood Memorial Garden.
Shad Debes (Nov. 2, 1971 – Aug. 22, 2001); Connie Cline (Feb. 18, 1948 – Feb. 10, 2003); Richard Howlier (Sept. 25, 1941 – Feb. 27, 2004); Richard “Dick” Foss (Aug. 24, 1953 – Nov. 30, 2004); Terri Bitter (Sept. 5, 1964 – Dec. 17, 2005); Phillip Byers (Sept. 21, 1936 – Oct. 13, 2006); Bryan Brazda (Jan. 3, 1964 – March 6, 2007); Mary Barry (Oct. 6, 1942 – Oct. 9, 2007); Ralph “Ed” Hullet (July 3, 1948 – July 5, 2008); Patricia Rabenseifner (March 31, 1953 – July 17, 2008); Shelley Miller (July 19, 1967 – May 26, 2009); Kandis Pedigo (Nov. 1, 1968 – May 28, 2009); Martha Shobe (Dec. 3, 1943 – Oct. 6, 2009); Darrell Begg (Jan. 1, 1966 – Jan. 13, 2010).