'Our children extend our life and create our immortality' Parents of teen draw comfort from memories

July 31, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Charles and Janice Poehlman named their daughter after an Egyptian symbol for immortality. Yesterday they refused to draw attention to the events of Shen Dullea Poehlman's slaying, and instead dwelled on a life filled with promise.

"Shen means as long as the sun is on the horizon life goes on forever," her father said in an interview at his Eldersburg home.

The Poehlmans chose the name from "our idea of how our children extend our life and create our immortality," he said.

"We want her memory to be as her name. Our Shen's specialness extends our lives to another level."

The Poehlmans have been divorced for a few years but are comforting each other in their overwhelming grief.

Their daughter, the middle child of three, had an indefinable quality from the day she was born, they said.

"She didn't cry when she was born," said Janice Poehlman. "I held her and she just stared at me like she was already so wise."

From early childhood, Shen could concentrate on any task she set for herself, whether it was a school project, tennis match or research on her favorite subject: dolphins.

"She was able to grasp the whys in the big picture and still focus on the minute tasks," said her father.

Her teen-age years were marked not as much by rebellion as by a determination to make her own way, he said.

"I tried to give her space to be who she was," he said. "As a child grows, you want to give them wings, but you also want to know where they are, who they are with and when they will be coming home.

"They will fuss, but we must not make our lives so complicated that we don't know where our children are at every minute. They don't say it, but that is what they want too."

Shen, who had lived with her father since the divorce, told him she would be baby-sitting Tuesday for a friend of a friend.

The next day, her body was found by police.

"The hardest part for me is the terror she must have experienced," said her mother.

Janice Poehlman saw her daughter frequently and spoke to her daily. She had joined Shen in Ocean City for a July Fourth holiday.

"I told her then that I couldn't be beside her all the time anymore and that I needed to be able to trust her decisions," she said. "She promised me that she could make good decisions."

Janice Poehlman has told her children often that "no matter where we are, even if I died, we would always be in each other's hearts."

In two weeks, Charles Poehlman had planned to fly to Florida with his daughter and her 15-year-old brother, Jeremiah.

They would help Shen settle into college life at Florida State University.

"We were two weeks away from Tallahassee," said Charles Poehlman. "We had our tickets and Shen had started packing those beautiful suitcases she had gotten for graduation."

Instead, some of the money set aside for college may be used in another way -- as the foundation of a scholarship fund in Shen's name.

Pub Date: 7/31/98

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