Sculpture to be Smithsburg student's memorial

March 11, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

click on image to see enlargement

Heurich memorial

SMITHSBURG - Josh Lester didn't know Charas Heurich well before she died following a car wreck last November, but now he feels like he really understands her.

Lester and five other Smithsburg High School art students have designed a wall sculpture in her memory. They hope it will be displayed in an airy stairwell at the school where Charas made an indelible impression.

"It's been a real spiritual experience. I've gotten to know her through it," said Lester, a junior.

The students hope to unveil the sculpture at baccalaureate services that Charas (pronounced KAR-is) would have attended this June.

But first the students face their most difficult obstacle - raising $42,100 to have the sculpture cast in bronze 7 feet high and 6 feet wide.


An Albuquerque, N.M., artist has volunteered his time to work with the students.

If the sculpture is to be done by graduation, the money has to be raised in three weeks.

The students aren't ready to give up on a corporate donor or other benefactor. But even if they miss the deadline, they have vowed to bring the sculpture to life eventually.

While the sculpture represents a big investment, it has the potential to pay off for future Smithsburg High School students.

The master mold can be used to make a limited edition series of sculptures to be released on Nov. 17, the anniversary of Charas' death. All profits, estimated to be $30,000 per sculpture, would go into a scholarship fund.

Art teacher Ragan Rodgers suggested the idea of a memorial sculpture to her class in late January.

The six students ran with the idea, she said.

They soon realized they had taken on a larger and more technical project than they bargained for.

They found the artist with the help of Charas' parents Chris and Simone. Then they had to scale back their original idea for a sculpture 14 feet high and 12 feet wide, which would have cost $110,000.

"We're learning a lot about the business of art," Rodgers said.

To raise the $42,100, the students have been making calls and visiting businesses that have expressed an interest in donating money.

"I feel like I'm really doing something, accomplishing something big. Up until now I've just been a student," said Lacy Decker, who of the group members was the closest to Charas.

Heurich memorial"Personally, I can never forget Charas and I want to leave something behind so everyone can experience her. She was beautiful in every way," Decker said.

The sculpture is entitled "Scenery for Our Memories."

The predominant part of the sculpture is a leafless tree with outstretched branches, a universal sign of life.

"She was so universal. Her personality really outstretched everyone," said Decker, who did most of the drawing.

Carved into the tree are the initials of Charas and her boyfriend, Ryan Lampton of Baltimore.

Under the tree is a chair, modeled after the one on which Charas would sit while she studied.

On the chair is an open book, inscribed with a poem to be chosen by Charas' parents from among many tributes written by her classmates.

Beside the legs of the chair are two running shoes to symbolize her dedication to the track team.

A flying butterfly symbolizes her journey to a better place, they said.

Charas' mother, Simone Heurich, said she is touched by the tribute and is glad to see the students turn a tragedy into something positive.

"I'm overwhelmed by it," she said. "It's amazing to me to see the ripple effect of how someone's life can touch so many others."

Principal Michael Shockey said he has never before seen the loss of one student bring together so many.

"I don't think there's anyone in this school that hasn't been touched by this," he said.

Charas died at Washington County Hospital on Nov. 17 following an accident in which her 1990 Honda had pulled onto Md. 64 from Bikle Road into the path of a 1993 Mazda MX-3, according to Maryland State Police.

After the accident, students held vigils and papered her locker with memorial poems.

The school's annual spring track meet has been renamed the Charas Heurich Memorial Invitational.

A memorial scholarship fund started by her parents has raised $3,000.

"It just really shows what the people in this community are made of. As difficult as this has been, we feel blessed to have been in this community," Simone Heurich said.

Donations for the sculpture can be made out to Charas Heurich Sculpture Fund at Smithsburg High School, Shockey said.

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