Virginia retires slain lacrosse player Yeardley Love's number

  • More than 2,000 mourners are estimated to have attended the funeral of Yeardley Love at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.
More than 2,000 mourners are estimated to have attended the… (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore…)
March 06, 2011|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

Charlottesville, Va. — — On the field of her dreams, Yeardley Love will remain No. 1 forever. The Cockeysville native's uniform number was retired Sunday at the University of Virginia, where teammates, relatives, friends and fans gathered in the rain to present her mother and sister with a commemorative jersey and to raise a flag bearing her name and number, 1, at her beloved lacrosse field.

Love was killed 10 months ago in a crime that still resonates on this storied campus, where the 22-year-old had fulfilled her childhood dream of playing for the perennial lacrosse powerhouse. Less than two weeks before she was to graduate, she was found dead in her apartment, leading to the arrest of her ex-boyfriend and fellow lacrosse player George Huguely V, who remains jailed on murder charges.

But before Sunday's women's lacrosse game at Klockner Stadium, it was Yeardley Love's life that school athletic officials honored by retiring the number that she wore, giving her mother Sharon and sister Lexie flowers, hugs and a framed jersey as fans gathered for the game against Penn State stood and applauded.

For Sharon Love, who had cheered from the sidelines and stands of numerous lacrosse fields since her daughter took up the sport as a 5-year-old, returning to the stadium brought a mix of emotions.

"It's bittersweet," Love said in an interview on Saturday.

Love said she and her elder daughter have been bolstered through the difficult months by the outpouring of support for the foundation her family has started and named after Yeardley. Called the One Love Foundation, it has raised money for a new lacrosse field at Notre Dame Preparatory School as well as future scholarships and projects that will promote community service.

"Lexie and I have been overwhelmed by people's kindness and generosity," Love said. "People have been so kind, it's really helped us so much. It just pulls you on."

Mother and daughter watched from the center of the field as five former players, seniors with Yeardley Love last year, hoisted a banner bearing her name and number at the center of the stadium's flag court. It will fly at every Virginia women's lacrosse home game.

"She was so much more than lacrosse, but it's hard not to come back to Charlottesville and see our coach and the other players without thinking of Yeardley," one of the Class of 2010 players, Brittany Kalkstein, said.

The retirement of Love's number was the latest in a series of posthumous honors that the family has received in her name, from the diploma that her cousin Lawren McChesney accepted on her behalf at UVa's commencement ceremony, to the Betty and Money Yates Award, given by the school to the female lacrosse player who best exemplifies dedication and leadership to the team. Yeardley had already been selected for the award but died before receiving it, her mother said she was told.

"I'm sure she knows about it now," Sharon Love said. "It was an honor for her, and of course I feel as a mother she deserves it."

Love teaches and interprets for hearing-impaired children in Baltimore public schools. Her family says that getting the One Love Foundation off the ground has helped all of them channel at least some of their grief during the past months as the criminal case against Huguely continues to make its way through the courts. He faces a range of charges, from murder to burglary, in connection with her May 3 death, having told police he had shaken her during a fight in her apartment, causing her head to bang against the wall. He faces a preliminary hearing April 11.

"In our hearts, we know this is what Yeardley would want us to focus on," said Debbie McChesney, Sharon Love's sister. "This would make her happy. We are spending our time looking forward to the future and trying to bring some good out of this."

The foundation is sponsoring its next "Yards for Yeardley" fundraiser, a running event, April 9 in Charlottesville after a previous one in Richmond generated $60,000, McChesney said.

Such events helped the foundation and Notre Dame Prep raise funds that were matched by a $500,000 donation by the Charles T. Bauer Foundation that will be used to build a turf field at the school and endow a scholarship in Yeardley Love's name.

The foundation also hopes to create its own version of U.Va.'s Yates award, asking the Atlantic Coast Conference women's lacrosse teams to each nominate a player and then selecting one to honor. Additionally, it will offer college scholarships to students, initially in Baltimore City, who both keep up their grades and do volunteer work with the elderly in their neighborhoods.

"Yeardley always had a soft spot for the elderly, so we've tried to incorporate that," Love said. "I remember one of the last times she was home from school, an elderly man, I don't know if he lost control of his car, but it ran off the road, and she stopped and called for an ambulance and sat with him.

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