By Timothy Bradfield
Leatha Shropshire has a small teardrop tattoo just below her right eye. She had it put there to honor her late mother, Helen McKin.
Her mother's body was one of 334 uncremated bodies found on the Tri-State Crematory property in Noble, Ga., in 2002.
"It's been eight years, but it's always on your mind because you can't forget," said Ms. Shropshire, of LaFayette, Ga. "And we've been waiting eight years for some kind of a memorial park."
Her wait soon could be over. Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said a plan is on the table for a memorial to those whose bodies were found. It would be in Noble, just a short distance from where the crematory once was located. Groundbreaking would take place this year, she said.
LaFayette resident Tim Mason, whose father's body was the first to be removed from the crematory grounds, doesn't like the idea.
"I don't want anything to do with that crematory or the neighborhood," Mr. Mason said.
Mrs. Heiskell says she's leaning hard in the direction of putting the memorial in Noble because, after years of ideas being volleyed back and forth, this plan is one that could work.
She said a $45,000 grant from the state came to the county in 2002 to build such a memorial.
"I think (the plan) will serve the purpose of the grant," she said.
"People have called me and asked me, 'What did you do with that money, what did you ever do with that money?' And the answer was 'nothing.'"
Mrs. Heiskell said the recurring roadblock was money.
"I hate to take so long, but $45,000 won't buy a piece of property and also establish a park," she said.
Her solution? Establish the memorial at Walker County's new 500-acre industrial park that's in development. She wants to put it on a three-acre tract that she describes as "very appropriate."
"(The park) might have a reflection pool. Might have a fountain. We'll have some benches. And maybe a walking track," she said. "It'll have a memorial plaque in it. And it'll have nice flowers and things. It'll be nicely landscaped."
Mr. Mason said he probably won't visit the memorial park.
But Ms. Shropshire said most likely she will, because of what it will represent. Even so, she'd like the memorial to be located somewhere else.
"Anywhere but Noble," she said. "To me, it tainted Noble."
Former Tri-State Crematory operator Brent Marsh pleaded guilty to 787 felony counts related to stockpiling bodies at the facility. He is serving a 12-year prison sentence in Georgia.
While there's a memorial marker at Tennessee-Georgia Memorial Park where unidentified and unclaimed remains were buried, Mrs. Heiskell says the memorial park in Walker County should be built, too. Not only because money has been allocated, but because people "want to see it happen."
"They want something that is in memory of their loved one," she said.
Timothy Bradfield is based in LaFayette. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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