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Appomattox victims in Va. memorial

Paving stones engraved with the names of Morgan Dobyns, Emily Quarles and Ronald "Bo" Scruggs will soon be placed on ground they likely walked on at their high school.

Their tragic deaths in a January killing spree that took eight lives were the impetus behind the creation of a memorial garden in the courtyard at Appomattox County High School, but they will not be the only ones honored.

Twenty-eight students and teachers have died in the school's 36-year history. Their names, too, will surround the fountain marking the center of the garden.

Dobyns and her mother, Lauralee Sipe; Sipe's husband, Dwayne Sipe; Dobyns' brother Joshua Sipe; Quarles and her parents, Jonathan and Karen Quarles; and Scruggs were shot and killed Jan. 19, at a house on Snapps Mill Road.

Christopher Speight, brother of Lauralee Sipe, has been charged in their deaths, but was declared not mentally competent to stand trial in June. He has been sent to a state mental hospital in an effort of restore his competency.

The shooting rocked the tight-knit community and inspired students and faculty of Appomattox County High School. They wanted to do something to honor Dobyns', Quarles' and Scruggs' lives, but the project quickly evolved into a remembrance of all those who lost their lives while attending or working at Appomattox High School.

“It's rewarding to be able to honor all these people that have passed,” said Marie Morgan, a math teacher at the school who researched the 28 names that will be engraved on paving stones in the garden.

Morgan said in the wake of the shooting, the high school's staff wanted to find a way to help the students handle their grief but they struggled with how. The students, she said, came forward with the idea. Student Kat Dorsi pushed for a memorial and the idea soon evolved to rehabilitating the garden.

Construction began last week. It will be completed before school begins but will likely not be dedicated until September.

A new fountain, with a bottom-lit water basin, will rest at the center of the memorial garden, said Terry Kline, landscape designer. The entryway to the fountain will read “Appomattox County High School Memorial Garden, Est. 2010.”

A walkway leading up to the fountain will be lined with the names of faculty who died will employed at the school. The gateway to the fountain will be marked with Dobyns', Quarles' and Scruggs' names and the walkway surrounding it will be ringed with the names of other students who died while attending the school.

The paving stones are designed so that more can be added at a later date, but Morgan hopes that no more stones will join the circle surrounding the fountain.

The student and faculty committee designed the garden and brought their plans to Allied Design and RSG Landscaping & Lawn Care Inc.

RSG Landscaping donated the labor and equipment to create the garden in special remembrance of Dobyns, who was the daughter of one of its employees.

The project is funded entirely through community donations of money, labor, equipment and at-cost beautification materials. Morgan said many people donated money to the project because they had lost loved ones but also to help the students heal. Donations are still rolling in.

“It's a wonderful project with a lot of community pride involved,” said Karen Jordan, human resources manager for RSG. “We are very pleased to be involved in the effort.”

When Appomattox County High School's principal Mike Kelley asked for volunteers to research the deaths associated with the school, Morgan was hesitant at first, knowing she was busy.

Then she thought about how she's taught at the school for 30 years and how the names she researched were in many cases students who had walked through her classroom or faculty members who had been her colleagues.

“You don't forget,” Morgan said. “I feel like I have known most of them.”

-- The News & Advance

By Washington Post Editors  |  August 5, 2010; 7:57 AM ET
Categories:  Homicide , Schools , Updates , Virginia  
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An excellent tribute.

Posted by: | August 5, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

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