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Monument will honor 9 killed in van crash



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A sculptor is creating a monument to honor nine people from Utah State University who died in a van crash in 2005, and he's inviting the victims' families to play a special role in the creation of it.

Each tear and each stroke of the sculptor's tool helps Merlynn Gunnell remember her son Justin. His favorite saying was, "plow to the end of the furrow." Gunnell says, "He loved what he did and such a choice spirit. I feel it such an honor to be his mom."

Justin was one of eight Utah State University students who, with their professor, lost their lives when the van they were riding in skidded out of control and rolled off I-84 on Sept. 26, 2005.

Monument will honor 9 killed in van crash

The university commissioned a monument, and after interviewing the families about what would best represent their loved one, sculptor Mark DeGraffenried has invited the families to leave a mark.

Kim Wilcox gently molded the wedding band on the clay model of her husband, Bradley's, hand. "I honestly think it's really amazing that the school is doing this. The sculptures are beautiful. I think it's really, really nicely done," she said.

The families say the monument has brought them together. They now offer support and friendship to one another.

Work on this project has been a deeply personal experience for the monument builder, the designer and the artist. "What this is all about is capturing the spirit of those individuals whose lives were shortened and being able to involve the people who are trying to fill a void with that loss," DeGraffenried said.

Though each panel represents an individual, together they create a sense of community, a sense of healing.

The unveiling ceremony will take place in November or December of this year in the Taggart Student Union building. The sculpture will eventually have a permanent place in the foyer of a new College of Agriculture Building.

E-mail: cmikita@ksl.com

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Carole Mikita

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