Massage therapy offered as memorial to slain teen

Mother hopes gathering will keep memory alive

July 23, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Janice Dullea Poehlman is offering the community a gentle thank you and a chance to remember her daughter at a memorial massage-a-thon Sunday.

She and eight other massage therapists will give 10-minute massages at Sykesville Fire Hall, using professional massage chairs and tables. Volunteers trained to conduct cholesterol and blood pressure screenings and spinal assessments will be available.

Poehlman has organized the day in memory of Shen Dullea Poehlman, her 17-year-old daughter who was strangled a year ago after she went to a baby-sitting job. The killing led to an outpouring of sympathy from neighbors and friends in South Carroll.

As the anniversary of Shen's death approached, Poehlman wanted an observation that "would help us keep her memory alive, her spirit strong and honor her," she said.

"I thought, `What can I do and what would Shen want?' " said Poehlman. "My friends wanted to help, so this idea is perfect. It will give community and friends -- everyone who is thinking of us -- an opportunity to touch base and remember Shen."

Massage figured into daily life when the three Poehlman children were growing up. Their mother often made it part of their bedtime routine.

"I practiced with the children," she said. "They would say, `Do my hands; do my feet.' It helped them relax and go to sleep."

Two days before Shen died, her mother gave her a full-body massage.

"It was the last time I saw her. We reminisced a lot because she was going away to school," she said. "It was truly a blessing."

Shen, a 1998 graduate of Liberty High, had won an academic scholarship and planned to study marine biology at Florida State University.

"She wanted to work with dolphins, her passion since she was a little girl," said Poehlman, who is a massage therapist at an Eldersburg salon.

Poehlman has given as many as 20 massages a day and says she's certain the other therapists can handle similar numbers.

No fee will be charged for any of the services, but Poehlman is accepting donations to a scholarship fund in Shen's name. The family hopes to offer other students the opportunity lost to their daughter.

Donations will also help defray the family expenses while attending the murder trial that is expected to last two weeks in Garrett County this fall.

"With the trial coming up, it is important for all of us to remember Shen," she said.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Sykesville Freedom Volunteer Fire Department, 6680 Sykesville Road (Route 32). Information: 410-795-8021.

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