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A Remembrance & Honoring Garden

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

 

Six brightly colored butterflies twirl in the breeze atop the twisted branches of a tall iron trunk.  The center butterfly is perched on the tallest branch.  The blue wings and yellow polka dots echo the blue sky on sunny days and on dark days bring the promise of sunshine again.  Five other butterflies with brightly colored wings twirl along with the blue ones to remind those who see this sculpture of joy, life and transformation.

The butterfly wind sculpture was installed in late November 2009 in the circular butterfly garden in front of Flynn Park School in University City.  As students, teachers, parents, staff, neighborhood walkers and others approach the school, the sculpture greets them with open wings and sunny promise.  But the sculpture was designed for a sadness that fills the heart of a U. City family and the community.

The sculpture is a remembrance and honoring of Police Sergeant Michael King, a twenty-five year veteran of the University City Police Department who was shot and killed while on duty in 2008.   Sergeant King went to Flynn Park School and grew up in the neighborhood.  He became a police officer in the city he loved.

The University City School District wanted to honor Sergeant King by creating a memorial garden at his elementary school.  There was an already existing butterfly garden in front of the school, a garden that I already knew and cared about because I designed it when my children were students there.  Although my sons are now college age, I frequently visit this garden and know how visible and beautiful it is when full of blooms.  Last August I was contacted by Mary Ann Shaw, the director of U. City in Bloom which maintains and plants this garden, to help redesign it for remembrance and honoring of Sergeant King.  I wanted the garden to be beautiful and uplifting year round, with something permanent that would symbolize the beauty and transformation of life. I knew a butterfly would be that symbol.

Mary Ann and I drove to Grafton, Illinois to meet John Everett of Iron Décor & More to see the butterfly and other wind sculptures he created.  John greeted us with a big smile and enthusiasm for our project.  We liked his single butterfly wind sculptures, but knew something bigger was in order.  When John visited the school site he envisioned a cluster of  moving butterflies sitting on branches of a twisted metal trunk.  We chose the bright colors and let John work with his metal artists in Illinois and Mexico to make it happen.

On a warm late November day last fall, with some flowers still blooming, the sculpture was installed in the morning and dedicated in the afternoon.  The Police Chief, School Superintendent, Principal, City Manager and others spoke of their memories of Sergeant King and the occasion. But the best part of the honoring celebration was when the hundreds of school children and their teachers stood around the garden, encircling it with their love and voices as they sang songs to commemorate the garden. A garden that is home to not only a beautiful sculpture, plants, butterflies and other life, but also sends the hopes, dreams and life stories of all who visit the garden out into the world via the twirling of the butterfly wings.

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