Memorial garden honors sledding accident victim

November 30, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. -- "We know there is truly a heaven or Mandy would not be gone," Donna Willard said Saturday, mastering her emotions as she spoke of the late Amanda K. "Mandy" Bowders to a crowd gathered in Blue Ridge Summit at a garden dedicated in Bowders' honor.

It has been nearly two years since a sledding accident claimed the life of 19-year-old Mandy Bowders, but to those whose lives she affected, it was as if Mandy was there Saturday night, smiling and laughing while the community honored her spirit through stories, song and prayer.

Mandy's mother, Lori Bowders, had no idea how many people were touched by her daughter's sunny, bright personality until they surrounded her to dedicate the garden.

"I never really knew just how many people Mandy touched in her short life," she said. "I am in awe."

Almost 100 people gathered at the Blue Ridge Summit Fire Hall to remember the girl who friends and family described as humble yet full of love.


"Mandy would not have wanted this much attention," Lori Bowders said.

Despite Mandy's inclination to stay out of the limelight during her life, Lynn Ford said she felt it was important to make Mandy the center of attention for a short time now that she is gone.

"I should have been calling to invite people to Amanda's Gold Award ceremony (the day she died), but instead I was calling to tell them about a tragedy," Ford said. "I felt something positive needed to come out this."

Seeing the community gather Saturday to dedicate the memorial, Ford said she knew Mandy always would be remembered.

But while many blotted their emotions on neatly folded tissues, Ford said if Mandy was there, she would have been laughing.

"Mandy was so very laid-back," she said. "For instance, when the tree didn't light this evening, it was like her little joke on us for making her the center of attention."

For surviving family, there was no better time than Thanksgiving weekend to remember Mandy.

Lisa Bowders, wife of Mandy's brother, Robert Bowders Jr., said the last holiday season was hard without Mandy, but knowing so many people are thinking about her sister-in-law makes the memory easier to bear this year.

Many people spoke of Mandy's talent for lighting up a room with a smile, knowing when a hug was needed, and living a life full of faith, hope and love, but Ford said the memorial described Mandy best:

"Mandy's bright sunny disposition and spirit will remain alive in all our hearts and through her three passions in life: Faith, music and her love for children. The nature of true love is to give and bless. It does not demand anything in return."

That, Ford said, was and still is Mandy.

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