The untimely deaths five years ago of two young people from Kenmore has led to their families to create a monument in their memories at Rhododendron Park.
Sarah Paulson was a 20-year-old Inglemoor High School graduate. She was walking in the crosswalk on Juanita Drive Northeast and Northeast 160 Street in Kenmore on the morning of March 14, 2014 when she was hit by a 53-year-old Kirkland resident. She died from her injuries at Harborview Medical Center later that day.
Caleb Shoop was a 19-year-old Inglemoor High School graduate. Shoop was stopped at a crosswalk on 61st Avenue Northeast and Northeast 190th Street in Kenmore on March 18, 2014, waiting for cars in both directions to stop, when he was struck by a truck in the last lane that failed to stop. He was sent to Harborview with a brain injury. He died March 21 at 9:19 p.m.
The loss of these two Kenmore residents left a hole in the community. Shoop participated in marching band, track and field and water polo. He volunteered for Ski for All, an organization that works with teaching children with disabilities and veterans how to ski and snowboard. He was planning on becoming a firefighter.
Paulson, born with Apert’s Syndrome, underwent 47 surgeries by the time of her passing. While faced with great challenges, she was known for her “constant joy, smile, exuberance and love of others,” according to her mother Susan.
“It was less than six months after her final surgery and the delivery of a set of dentures, during her third year at OLS Venture, working and finally mastering school and the process that was easy to so many,” Susan Paulson said. “Working at her first job at Snapdoodle Toys, cleaning, organizing and assisting customers. It was two weeks before she was to realize her dream and be trained to usher for the 5th Avenue Theatre, so she could pursue additional opportunities in musical theater.”
Since their untimely passings, the families wanted to do something to honor their loved ones.
Karissa Webster was Shoop’s “blonde mama.” Shoop was her daughter’s boyfriend of five years.
“Caleb was like my kid. He was a part of the family,” she said. “He called me his ‘blonde mama.’”
Webster said about a year after their deaths, the families came together and said they wanted to do something for them, but it took another year to get around to it. They decided on a park bench.
Designed to be a community gathering place, the Legends Bench will be located in Rhododendron Park, “overlooking the playgrounds and adding to the beauty and enjoyment of the park. In the spirit of both Caleb and Sarah, we hope the bench will bring friends and family together and strengthen our community,” Webster said.
The title comes from a Babe Ruth quote that Shoop frequently recited, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” The families believe that is the kind of spirit the Legends Bench will provide for park-goers to experience for years to come.
There were a few hurdles for the families to overcome at first. They first had to get approval by the city to install a bench in the park. Bench designs also put a wrench in the progress.
“The first bench looked terrible,” Webster said. “We later hooked up with The Arts of Kenmore but we couldn’t find an artist we liked.”
The Arts of Kenmore (AOK) is a nonprofit that produces the annual Kenmore Art Show and curates gallery exhibitions at City Hall and public art projects.
AOK acts as fiscal sponsor and project coordinator on artist- and/or citizen-driven projects such as the mural project at St. Vincent de Paul and the large mural wrapped around the CalPortland silos.
These projects, along with the Legends Bench, are a result of the city’s “For the Love of Kenmore” campaign encouraging citizens to beautify Kenmore.
Sara Solum Hayashi, AOK curator and public art coordinator, said working with Webster and the families has been a professional and personal pleasure.
“Karissa and I have been friends since our kids’ preschool, and my son shared a tight camaraderie with Caleb in high school marching band,” she said. “The project has been a passion for everyone involved.”
It took the families a year and a half to find their “perfect” artist — Woody Morris of Waterscapes on Whidbey Island.
“Woody is the perfect fit,” Webster said. “His design is perfect for this.”
The bench is an “S” shape, otherwise known as a kissing shape.
“The ‘S’ honors both Sarah and Shoop,” Webster said.
Raising funds has been an ongoing journey for the Legends Bench. Webster launched a GoFundMe fundraiser that has raised almost $9,000.
“It’s really been a team effort,” Webster said. “It’s been so cathartic for all of us working on this and we’ve become very close.”
Through the bench, the families want the memories of Shoop and Paulson to be shared with the community.
“They were amazingly thoughtful kids. That’s the legend we want to send,” Webster said. “The [bench] is a place where we can connect — it speaks to who they were.”
The public is invited to a special unveiling celebration event from 1-4 p.m. on June 2, with a 2 p.m. unveiling presentation at Rhododendron Park.