In Memoriam ceremony celebrates lives of loved ones

Every year, Mount Royal College hosts the In Memoriam ceremony to celebrate the people who have had memorial scholarships established in their honour.

On Aug. 25, more than 70 family members and friends gathered at the Dr. John. H. Garden Memorial Park to celebrate the lives of the people who are honoured there.

Dave Deyell speaks at the In Memoriam ceremony in the Dr. John H. Memorial Garden. The Deyell family created a memorial scholarship in their daughter Kristen's name after she died tragically in 2004.

“This is a very special place — the physical and emotional heart of Mount Royal College,” said Vice-President, External Relations, Hunter Wight as he welcomed guests to the ceremony. “It is a truly fitting venue for this afternoon’s celebration of life, accomplishments and dreams; and of people who will always have special places in our hearts.”

“The park serves as a powerful reminder that students are both Mount Royal’s purpose and its legacy — our past, present and future — and the reason we are gathered here today.”

At the ceremony, Dave Deyell shared his experience of losing a loved one. His daughter, Kristen Deyell, died tragically in 2004 during a student exchange program in Guadalajara, Mexico. Last year, the Deyell family decided to create a memorial scholarship in Kristen’s name.

“Seeing the Dr. John H. Memorial Garden last year inspired me to begin construction on another memorial garden for Kristen at one of her favorite places, the family cabin on Shuswap Lake,” said Deyell.

He spoke about his daughter with humour, love and kindness, and even shared a beautiful collection of sayings his daughter had called ‘Kristen’s Box of Thoughts…Maybe to Live By.’

“A little reminder, now and again, as to what things are really important in one’s life sounds like a pretty good idea to me, especially considering how fragile our lives and the lives of those so dear to us can be,” he said. “Life can be taken in the blink of an eye.”

Valerie Pierce, a recipient of two memorial scholarships, understands how fragile life can be. Pierce was widowed at the age of 21. “I didn’t know how I would get by emotionally and financially, but I knew school was a huge part of what I needed to do. Theatre has always been my passion and after I lost my husband I realized life was too short to not do what I had dreamed of all my life.”

Pierce says that it was the generosity of two families that enabled her to reach her aspirations and goals.

“I am deeply honoured and touched that I received these gracious gifts and I cannot thank the families enough. Words can’t begin to describe the level of gratitude I feel.”

She says student loans helped her along the way, until the end of the school year when money started getting tight.

“I couldn’t even buy my son a muffin one morning. In tears, I explained to him that I couldn’t afford it. Two days later, I found out I had been awarded the Scott Armstrong Memorial Scholarship,” said Pierce, who was also awarded the David G. Tallman Memorial Scholarship a short time later.

Pierce says she is finally where she wants to be in life. “I am living my dream and I know when I am financially able I will establish a scholarship in my husband’s memory.”

This year’s ceremony celebrated five new memorial scholarships established in memory of: Nathan Bennor, Karen Miller-Tait, Caroll Anne Taylor, Harold Sharlow, and Jennifer Pedersen. Their names have been added to the granite wall in the memorial park which now bears the names of 116 people who have had memorial scholarships established in their honour.

The park opened in 1998 in memory of Rev. Dr. John H. Garden, who was the first student to enrol at the College when it opened in 1911. He later made a significant contribution to Mount Royal as a principal and member of the Board of Governors.

By Carla Shiels