Southeast Middle builds garden to honor teacher who died in accident
By Steve Huffman
Kay Brown said Wednesday was the kind of day her good friend Marilyn Webb would have loved.
It was cool but not cold, and a nice breeze was kicking across the grounds of Southeast Middle School. Flowers were in bloom, adolescents were laughing and all the world seemed alive.
“Marilyn loved the outdoors,” Brown said. “She was a science teacher. She loved everything relating to Mother Nature.”
Webb, who taught both science and math at Southeast, died Sept. 19 in a traffic accident while on her way to work.
On Wednesday, students, faculty and other staff members at Southeast worked to create a garden in her honor. Some brought plants or seeds while others contributed money.
Some of the students went to work with hoes or shovels and others moved rocks. Post-hole diggers were put to good use. The type of work ethic displayed would go far toward easing the concerns of adults worried about the younger generation.
By the end of the day, the Marilyn Webb Memorial Garden was well on its way to completion.
Brown, an eighth-grade science teacher, said she opted to have students get to work on the project on Earth Day because of Webb’s appreciation of all things connected to the great outdoors.
“She was an extremely humble person,” Brown said. “She always had a smile.”
She said students and staff were devastated in September at the news of Webb’s death. Group hugs were the order of the day as the close-knit school community worked to help one another through their grief.
Brown said she wanted to allow time for everyone to put the teacher’s death in perspective but didn’t want to wait so long as to let Webb’s passing be forgotten.
She said she thought a memorial garden was a nice means of remembering the teacher.
“It’s a way for students to express the pain of losing her,” Brown said.
Students and faculty members donated flowers, plants or cash. Brown said Webb’s favorite flower was the red rose, and about 20 of the plants were donated for the garden.
A similar number of lilies were given, as were azaleas and an assortment of other perennials. “Just everything,” Brown said of the flowers and bushes that will make up the memorial garden.
Enough money was donated to purchase benches and a statue for the garden. An eighth-grader, Nettie Scrip, designed and created a personalized stepping stone with a picture of Webb that will be a centerpiece of the garden.
Brown said she hopes students will take advantage of the garden as a place to sit and read. A picnic table will be used by teachers looking for a mid-day break.
Cody Dale, Caleb Cranfield, Wil Holshouser, Cole Woodard and Seth Martin all play sports at Southeast. Though only a couple of the boys had Webb as a teacher, they were all volunteering their time Wednesday to dig in the garden.
The boys kidded with one another while the work was taking place, but also paused to reflect on the teacher they were honoring.
They recalled that Webb seldom missed a game at the school, though she wasn’t obligated to attend. She came, the boys said, to show her support for their efforts.
“She was a good school-spirit person,” Cody said. “She wasn’t just a good teacher, she was a good friend.”
Brown’s husband, Larry, owns Brown’s Landscaping and donated his time Wednesday to oversee the work. He said he was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm.
“When Kay asked me to help, I thought, ‘Yeah, I know who’s going to wind up doing the work,’ ” Brown said, laughing as he stood back to watch the middle-schoolers attacking the earth with their garden tools.
He then admitted to the error of his thinking.
“I was wrong,” Brown said. “This is a great bunch of kids. I’m sure Ms. Webb would be proud.”