Bella’s Butterfly Garden Tribute to be built for crash victimFamily raising money to help fund memorial for Iszabella Morgan, killed in car crash.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Bella Morgan will be remembered in a Mitchell park as long as people watch butterflies dance on air. The Mitchell Park and Recreation Board has approved naming a section of a city park for Iszabella “Bella” Morgan. It will be known as Bella’s Butterfly Garden. Morgan, 9, was killed in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of Duff Street and First Avenue March 24.
The man who was driving the vehicle that caused the fatal crash, Michael Sedlmeier, of Mitchell, was drunk and fleeing police. Sedlmeier pleaded guilty to first-degree and third-offense DUI. He received a 40-year prison sentence.
Sue Stahl, Morgan’s great-aunt, said the memorial, while intended to be a place of beauty and serenity, also will help send a message about the dangers of drinking and driving.
“We believe Bella was taken in such a way to bring awareness to drunk driving and the impact it has on so many lives,” Stahl said. “Everyone thinks it will never happen to them and you hear that phrase over and over. Bella’s family is here to tell you it can happen to anyone. The family is working to bring awareness to this and help to prevent any other family to have to endure the suffering and pain we have.”
Family members calling themselves Bella’s Butterfly Brigade joined a Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) walk Saturday in Rochester, Minn.
According to MADD, 10,228 people were killed and approximately 350,000 were injured in alcohol-related crashes in 2010, the latest year figures are available, and the financial cost of the crashes was $132 billion.
The death of Bella, as she was known, caused a tremendous outpouring of emotion and support for the family. There was talk of renaming Duff Street in her honor.
The City Council studied the issue and also considered renaming Northridge Park for her. In the end, it asked the Park and Recreation Board to come up with a fitting tribute.
That was how Bella’s Butterfly Garden was born. Park and Recreation Department staffers Matt Hayes and Brad Gates, who both studied landscape design in college, came up with the plan.
Work is expected to begin on it in the spring at Northridge Park (near Mitchell High School), Hayes said, and should be completed in about a month.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” he said.
Stahl said the family is glad to see the progress.
“The park board loved the plans that were presented to them … and we have received the go-ahead to start the process of fundraising to get this going,” she said in an email to The Daily Republic. “They have met with the family and got the blessing from them for the plans also.”
The board gave its approval at its Aug. 14 meeting and asked the Morgan family to raise money to help pay for the garden. The entire project will cost around $10,000.
“There’s no specific set amount,” said parks and recreation secretary Angel DeWaard. “The park board asked the family to raise $5,000 to $6,000.”
Parks and Recreation Director Dusty Rodiek said the family may raise all the funds for the project, while the city will donate staff time to design and construct the garden. Some of the work may be contracted out, he said, but the city wants to be involved.
“We’re going to be a player, a partner in this,” Rodiek said.
Bella’s Butterfly Garden will include a 60-foot-long path, a patio area 20 feet in diameter, a bench and signs, with garden areas along the path and near the patio area, he said.
Butterflies have a special significance to the family, Stahl said.
“The Monday before Bella’s accident, Jeanie (Bella’s mother) saw a tombstone with the quote ‘What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly,’ ” she said. “She loved the quote and wrote it down because she wanted it on her tombstone one day. The following Saturday Bella got her angel wings and Jeanie thought again of that quote and realized it was meant to be for Bella.
“Also, when we were at the wake and listening to Father Larry’s message, Bella’s grandma Pam was looking at all the flowers and mementos that were around and started noticing butterflies everywhere stuck in flowers.
“When we got home and looked at pictures, Bella was wearing clothes with butterflies on them. Just seemed like our sign was butterflies. At the cemetery, butterflies were always close and in our daily lives.”
Bella loved to be outdoors watching the birds, playing with her dogs and dancing on the front step, she said.
“When you watch the videos of her dancing around outside it reminds you of a butterfly also — arms and legs moving jumping around from here to there,” Stahl said. “We were at a family reunion this summer and there was one butterfly that fluttered into the group of people — the butterfly flew by each person there and made its presence known to each person — whether it was just flying by or flying in front of some of their faces.”
She said the butterfly also spent a lot of time by the pool, just as Bella had loved to do.
“We all knew that this was Bella coming to make her presence known — just as she did on Earth,” Stahl said.
Northridge Park is half a block away from where Bella lived. Stahl said the young girl rode her bike there and played there quite often with her brother Spencer, her friends and her dogs.
Stahl said the family is doing as well as can be expected.
Bella lived with her mother Jeanie Morgan and her brother, Spencer Morgan. Ryan Anderson is her father.
“Bella’s mother struggles every day but with the continued support of the community and family and friends she hopes to continue spreading the message of do not drink and drive,” Stahl said. “Cherish your children and hug them every day. Life will never be the same without Bella.”