Love fixes child's gravesite Hospice, youths help mother buy marker

July 20, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

Patricia Savoy bends over a bronze plaque in a small Annapolis cemetery, sweating a little in the heat, her face exhausted by emotion.

She doesn't have to worry now that her son's grave will be lost.

When the single mother couldn't afford a marker for her 7-year-old's grave this summer, a county hospice and teen-agers from a local church joined forces to buy the plaque.

Inscribed on the plaque, which rests in a green hollow at Pinelawn Memorial Park, is the 7-year-old's name, Olonzo Prather, the years of his short life, columns of roses and two entwined hearts.

"It's real pretty," said Ms. Savoy, pulling snapshots of the boy, who died of liver cancer in February, from her purse. "I always wanted a child who looked like me, and he was the one."

Pictures show Olonzo playing with sparklers on July 4, 1991, showing off a good report card, and, finally, lying in his casket.

"He died so peaceful," said Ms. Savoy. "His hair looked just like a newborn baby's hair."

Olonzo had been sick with cancer for two years. He rallied after a bone liver transplant last October, but relapsed in January.

He died in February, and his mother had no money to bury him. Friends raised the money for the burial, but another $500 was needed for a gravestone.

Ms. Savoy shopped around for the least expensive stone, but even those were beyond her means. She wept that she would be unable to put flowers on her child's grave; when the grass grew back over the grave, she wouldn't even know exactly where it was.

The 29-year-old mother of four had tried to visit the grave after Olonzo died but couldn't find it.

"I wasn't going to give up," she said, though she'd saved only $63 for the stone. But then the Hospice of the Chesapeake stepped in.

Hospice social workers had followed the family through Olonzo's terminal illness. Normally, the hospice, a non-profit organization, follows a family through such an illness and for up to 15 months after the family member dies.

Betty Asplund, director of the hospice's bereavement center, alerted teen-agers from the Severna Park United Methodist Church's youth group, who last month held a car wash to buy Olonzo a grave marker.

The youth group is active in various public services, said Shannon Haszard, president of the group. They collect food for homeless shelters and work on summer projects for the needy in other states.

Said the 18-year-old: "It's important to show love for other people, to treat people the way we would want to be treated. We did it to serve God, to be more like Jesus, who was a servant."

The car wash brought in $500. Cemetery directors also helped out, taking about 20 percent off the cost of the grave marker, said Russ Gilbert, Pinelawn sales manager.

Thursday, Ms. Savoy visited the plaque for the first time.

"It feels great to know the place," she said. "It's a lot of memories, but it feels great."

"Sometimes I feel he's around," she added, bending over Olonzo's name. "Sometimes at night when I hear something, I think, 'I guess Olonzo's coming through.' "

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