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Memorial bench is planned at Connellsville Area Senior High School

| Monday, March 25, 2013, 7:33 a.m.

Continuing its efforts to acknowledge classmates who have died, the Connellsville Area High School Class of 1995 is raising funds for a memorial bench to be placed at the high school.

The district school board recently approved a request submitted by class vice president George Stash.

After money is raised for the bench — in honor of deceased 1995 alumni Shannon Cricco, Denene Fee, Jonathan James and Jason Sandusky — Stash is hopeful a rededication service can be held for all of the students included in the memorial.

The class had earlier planted pin oak trees in memory of two class members — Kurt Kapolka and Dan Martray, both of whom died in 1994.

District building and grounds director Mike Omatick confirmed that those trees, and two others planted in memory of deceased students from other years' classes, were removed two years ago as part of a high school renovation project.

The project is wrapping up, and all four trees have been replaced along Falcon Drive.

No formal dedication service was held, Stash said.

Plaques bearing the students' names have been stored and will be returned when the landscaping project at the high school concludes this summer, Omatick said.

Stash said two years ago that class members, who provided funds for the trees and accompanying plaques, were not notified of plans to remove the trees.

“I don't think the school district was ever at fault. There may have been some poor planning,” he said.

Construction manager John Pappas, of Eckles Construction Services Inc., New Castle, said at the time that the trees were not replanted because they would have to be moved again and likely would die.

The majority of the members of the Class of 1995 who could be reached at the time expressed dissatisfaction with the way the trees were removed, Stash said.

“The idea of the memorial bench came from us losing four classmates in addition to the two we lost while we were in school,” he said.

“There was an idea brought forth to place a bench between the two memorial trees for our classmates we lost in memory of the other four who have since passed, and do (a dedication) all at once,” Stash said.

“I would like to see (dedication) as soon as possible. When the trees were removed, everyone was so upset by it, beyond our classmates. I would like to see this done right away,” he said.

“My plan is to see how much money is raised between now and the April (school board) meeting. We will see if we are ready to order, and proceed accordingly,” Stash said.

So far about $650 has been raised toward a bench that Stash anticipated could cost about $2,500.

He said donations have begun to pick up again since the board approved placement of a bench.

Donations, payable to the Connellsville Area High School Class of 1995, may be sent to Stash at 330 Little Summit Road, Dunbar, Pa., 15431.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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