By RHONDA ROSNER
Thanks to the
generosity of friends and strangers, child soon will be
at peace in her own grave
balloons, usual a cheerful staple at a preschooler’s
party, bobbed forlornly against a bleak winter sky at a
gravesite in Holmesville. Stirred by the cold breeze,
the balloons, placed to commemorate what would have been
Amber Gordon’s 4th birthday, floated silently over a
headstone that marks her grave, but does not bear her
Her maternal grandmother, Patricia Rollins, could not
hold back the tears on Feb. 24 as she placed the
balloons and a bouquet of plastic flowers at the Prairie
Township burial site her granddaughter shares with a
relative neither of them ever knew.
The headstone on the gravesite was placed there for
Amber’s great-grandmother, Ila Tharp, who died in 1991.
The casket of the child, who dies on June 19, was placed
above Tharp’s in a shallow grave.
The child who had little in life, was not given her own
identity in death by her father, Thomas Gordon, who
could not afford a separate plot or marker for her,
according to her grandmother.
“When you go there, you know she’s there, but it’s like
putting flowers on a stranger’s grave. When I visit, I
don’t know if I want to cry or scream,” said Rollins.
Her only consolation is the situation is temporary.
Rollins, of Millersburg, said she intended to buy a plot
for Amber with her federal income tax return.
Unexpectedly, donors, most of them anonymous, have
volunteered to cover the cost of exhumation and
relocation of the remains to another section of Prairie
Township Cemetery . The total would be more than $500,
including the cost of the site and relocation, she said.
A headstone would be at least $500 more, she said. The
donations were inspired by publicity surrounding Amber’s
death at the hands of her father’s live-in girlfriend,
Beth Bowles was sentenced April 6 to three years in
prison for the child’s death. She received the minimum
prison term for involuntary manslaughter for elbowing
the toddler in the stomach in a fit of rage after she
tripped over toys scattered on the floor of their
Wooster home. The injury resulted in the child’s death
three days later.
Enough funding has been provided to cover the costs of
relocating the gravesite, according to Barbara Freeman
of Summit Memorials Inc. To prevent money being left
over, contributions are no longer being accepted, she
Barberton and other Akron-area schools held fund-raisers
to benefit the cause. Donations from Wayne County ,
Akron, Kent, Atwater, Norton, Stow and an Akron nursing
home have been forwarded to Prairie Township Cemetery
caretaker Leonard Campbell to cover the cost of moving
the casket to a separate hilltop site, she said.
Total cost of the project has not been determined
because a price has not yet been set for the headstone
that will have Amber’s likeness etched into the dark
granite, Freeman said. The headstone, that will be set
at the new gravesite sometime this summer, is being
provided by an anonymous donor, according to Freeman.
All donors have been asked to submit a personal
sentiment that will be carved on the back of the stone,
“not only for Amber, for all children,” she said.
Donors will receive a photo and be informed of the
location of the headstone, according to Freeman. Ken
Noon, owner of Summit Memorials, will make the stone
available at cost she said.
Relocation involves two grave openings and closings, but
the caretaker said he is only charging for one. Cost of
interring a baby’s casket is $75; relocation would
usually be $150, he said.
Steve Byler, who will pour the foundation for the stone
after the grave size is determined, said he will work at
reduced cost, according to Campbell .
Rollins said, “birthdays and holidays will still be
rough,” but healing can begin after her granddaughter is
laid to rest in her own site. “At least, we can do this
for Amber now. At last, she’ll be at peace. She’s still
my baby. She’s still in my heart,” she said.