The murders committed by F. Glenn Miller in 2014 at Jewish community sites in Johnson County continue to generate responses of generosity and beauty.
A memorial sculpture to the victims — William Corporon, Reat Underwood and Terri LaManno — will be unveiled in a private ceremony to be attended by family members on April 12 at the Jewish Community Campus, one day before the second anniversary of the tragedy and the start of a second annual series of public memorial events known as “SevenDays.”
Corporon, 69, and his grandson, Reat, 14, were killed at the Jewish Community Center; LaManno, 53, was shot and killed at Village Shalom care center, where she had gone to visit her mother. Miller Jr., 74, was sentenced to death in the killings.
Donations that will be used to fund the memorial began pouring in soon after the shootings.
“At the same time the entire community was attending the unity service and we were accepting contributions of food and well wishes, the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom got unsolicited financial contributions,” explained Jill Maidhof, director of Jewish life and learning at the JCC. “We decided to pool our resources and create a memorial on the site of the campus.”
No drawings of the work are being released before it is unveiled.
Officials of the two Jewish institutions enlisted help from the local arts community and began what Maidhof called “a structured process” of seeking art to memorialize the victims. The task force received input from members of the victims’ families.
They received a dozen responses to their request for proposals, narrowing that to 10 and then to three. The finalists made in-person proposals last fall and a final decision was made in November. The theme was “Make a ripple and change the world.”
The artist whose proposal was unanimously chosen was Jesse Small, now of California but a former Kansas City area resident and graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute.
“Jesse was very emotional about our request and what we wanted,” said Sandra Berman, a JCC board member and chairwoman of the memorial task force. “He cried at the presentation. He took it very personally and gave us what we wanted and what the families wanted — the ‘Make a ripple’ theme. Their feeling is ‘Make a ripple and change the world.’ ”
Small said his outdoor sculptures use plate steel with patterns incised upon them. He said that fit well with the “ripples” theme.
“Sculpture is a communication to the future,” Small said. “It can last hundreds of years. It’s an artifact to people of the distant future. That makes me a good choice to create a memorial.”
Small said he understood there had already been “a powerful, grassroots movement through churches and synagogues and local government organizations, formed by the family members.
“The mission statement was the idea of ripples of healing spreading out; acts of kindness spreading like ripples. If there were more kindness in the world, that would have prevented this from occurring in the first place.”
Small said he was able to run with that theme and that his design “is a pattern of rings spreading out and overlapping and forming into … a wave form.” He also likened it to a cloud. The sculpture will be attached to a southwest-facing wall of the campus, outside the entrance to the White Theatre.
The steel’s shiny surface, Small said, will catch the sunlight during the day, and be illuminated by a beam of light at night, casting shadows on the wall.
“We felt strongly that it needed to be outside and available, if someone wanted to go spend time and be connected, without having to wait for the building to open,” Berman said.
“It will create a sacred space on the Jewish Community Campus,” she said. “Teachers, clergy and youth group leaders will use it for positive inspiration, and we envision educational programs, friendship circles and faith-based programming.”
You can help
Donations are being accepted to help underwrite the construction of the memorial, to endow its permanent maintenance and to sponsor education and programming around it. Donations may be made online at thejkc.org by clicking the “Support Us” tab; or by mailing a check to the Jewish Community Center, Attn: Memorial Art Fund, 5801 W. 115th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66211.
For more information about the SevenDays memorial events, visit http://givesevendays.org/