Children’s memorial in city’s hands
The Children’s Memorial was dedicated Oct. 2, 1994, the culmination of a dream of Sue and Paul Hrbacek. When Kerry Miller, then city manager, offered the Wildwood Retention Basin site on Lake Tahoe Boulevard as a resting place for the memorial.
For over three years Sue dreamed of a memorial to honor the lives of not only her son, Rory, and his two friends, Sandy Haynes and Casey Wells, but other young people from our community who had died. The boys’ death on Pioneer Trail on Feb. 2, 1991, occurred when the car they were in hit black ice and plowed into trees. The large pine that stopped the car is not the essence of the memorial, which was created by well-known local artist Dan Jones.
It was apparent to Sue from the beginning that the memorial was a community effort. The city of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Lake Tahoe Unified School District and Sierra Pacific Power, Tahoe Daily Tribune, Jerry Hurwitz, Wilderness Productions, JJ Entertainment and numerous floral shops and businesses all contributed in their own way. Over 400 people attended the dedication ceremonies. There were 36 bronze nameplates on the log that October day. There are now 185 representing not only individuals from the Tahoe area but 14 states and four foreign countries. Randy Mundt, father of Noah Mundt, lovingly places each nameplate on the log. A large bronze plate graces the center of the log inscribed with the message, “Say not in grief that they are no more but in thankfulness that they were.”
Since the dedication ceremonies, an anniversary celebration has been held each year to give parents, families and friends an opportunity to remember their loved ones. The celebration has included bagpipers, the Blue Ribbon Choir, poetry reading, sharing by parents and siblings, spiritual messages from local pastors to balloon releases and candle lighting. The events have been attended by hundreds of people from our community and out of town.
In 2001 Sue retired from a 16-year career at South Tahoe Public Utility, married Donald Miller of Philadelphia, Pa., and St. George, Utah, and moved to the gulf coast of Florida. Corrine Ehlers, the mother of Jeffrey Ehlers whose nameplate is on the log, took over the reins from Sue until it was decided this summer that it was time to return, in a sense, The Children’s Memorial to the city of South Lake Tahoe. Sue contacted City Councilman John Upton, father of Julie, one of the original 36, for his advice and direction.Through his contacts with the city, it was determined that Judy Crawford, recreation superintendent, would become the custodian of the records of The Children’s Memorial. She also has agreed to facilitate the placement of additional bronze nameplates as they are requested. The South Lake Tahoe chapter of The Compassionate Friends hopes to donate funds to place benches at the site and provide funds for future maintenance of the log.
For additional information about The Children’s Memorial and obtaining a bronze nameplate contact Crawford at the Parks and Recreation Department, 1180 Rufus Allen Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150-8202, (530) 542-6058.