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Memorial Garden at Hampton High School: A place to remember

The new Hampton Remembrance Garden in front of Hampton High School on McCully Road has been a collaborative effort of high school alumni, students, district administration and the public. And that was the hope behind the project.

“We wanted it to be somewhere everyone could see it and use it and this is exactly that place,” said Scott Docherty, one of the driving forces behind the garden.

The garden was dedicated in July. 

The idea for the memorial to Hampton School District deceased alums arose from a discussion in 2013 that Mr. Docherty, class of ’74, was having with some of his classmates while planning their 40th class reunion. According to the district web site, the class of 1974 was the first to attend all four years of high school at the present location.  Committee member Bob Seibel suggested a place for alumni, students and community members to use.

“We loved the idea and it just all came together,” Mr. Docherty said.  The committee raised $4,000 toward the project before approaching the school board for a site, according to the district web site.

Some of the members of the planning committee then purchased a statue, “Fly Away,” for $5,000 from the Randolph Rose Collection. 

“Timing is everything,” Mr. Docherty said. “The administration had just been talking about a way to get the alumni more involved in the district.”

Pam Lamagna, a school board member and a 1976 Hampton graduate, was one of the first the planning group approached for guidance on how to proceed.

“I loved the idea right away,” said Mrs. Lamagna who enlisted the aid of the members of the Class of 1976. “Not only is this a great way to connect alumni back to the school district, it beautifies the school.”

The group went to the school board in October 2013 and was asked to submit a design from an architect.

Donna Merritt, sister of committee member Nancy Evans, is a registered architect and a 1973 Hampton graduate. She donated her services to create the design. When the group took the proposal to the school board, it was unanimously approved. An area outside of the high school was designated for the garden.

“We were so happy. We were thinking it would be way out somewhere on the grounds and here they gave us a place right in front of the school,” Mr. Docherty said.

The high school student council made a pledge that the classes of 2014,’2015, ’2016, and ’17 would donate $10,000 from their fundraisers towards the project. A gazebo was purchased using nearly $9,000 of that donation.

“I am very proud of the student council for making decisions over the years that will leave [a mark] for the students in the building and the classes that will follow. Our wish is that we can carry the torch of maintaining the garden ”said student adviser Kevin Green.

In what Mr. Docherty refers to as Phase I of the garden, the statue was placed in the designated area in July. A wall costing $8,895 was built and in September, the gazebo was erected.

“It is also our hope that students will use the garden for homecoming and prom pictures and even become a tradition for each graduating class to have their group photo before going to Fridley Field to receive their diplomas,” Mr. Green said.

A walkway is being planned at a cost of $11,579. There also are two bronze benches that have been purchased, one by the class of 1974 and one by Mr. Docherty and his brother, Casey, class of ’83, in honor of their parents, Chuck and Marlane Docherty. The money has come from private donations.

The public and other Hampton alumni have invited to contribute to the garden, and an address for donations is available on the district web site. In Phase Two, Mr. Docherty said he would like to see a bronze statue of the Hampton Talbot, the school’s mascot.

“We want people to come back and take their photos with the statue like they do with the Nittany Lion at Penn State. We want to have our homecomings just like a college homecoming,” he said.

Mr. Docherty has even bigger plans for the garden.

“And if we continue, Phase Three would have the park grow to the end of the green space at the school, and we envision scholarships in the future as well,” he said.

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer, suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.