Monday, June 18 , 2018, 11:46 am | Fair 65º

 
 
 
 

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Nearly a Year After Isla Vista Massacre, Volunteers Prepare for People’s Park Memorial Dedication

Dozens turn out to plant succulents at new memorial for victims in advance of next week’s commemorations

From left, Woodstock’s Pizza general manager James Glover, Project IV Love organizer Jordan Killebrew and UC Santa Barbara’s Kataya Armistead were key players in helping the memorial at People’s Park come to life. “It’s definitely a sense of healing,” Armistead says. Click to view larger
From left, Woodstock’s Pizza general manager James Glover, Project IV Love organizer Jordan Killebrew and UC Santa Barbara’s Kataya Armistead were key players in helping the memorial at People’s Park come to life. “It’s definitely a sense of healing,” Armistead says. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez loved everything Zen — think meditation and bonsai trees.

Weihan “David” Wang’s family says he loved basketball.

His friends, George Chen and Chen Yuan “James” Hong, were mathematics, engineering and science whizzes.

Veronika Weiss was known for her dedication to water polo, and her sorority sister, Katherine Cooper, loved hummingbirds and all things floral.

The interests are simple, indicative of many students attending UC Santa Barbara, but these particular hobbies will be forever immortalized at People’s Park in the heart of Isla Vista, where a new memorial for victims of the May 23, 2014, massacre has been erected nearly a year later.

UCSB art students sculpted symbols honoring each of the six slain UCSB students — along with the victims’ initials — into metal and wooden benches as part of Project IV Love.

Dozens of students and Isla Vista residents gathered Saturday at People’s Park, volunteering time on a crisp but sunny morning near Embarcadero Hall for a “planting day” at the self-guided botanic tour.

“It came to life,” UCSB alum Jordan Killebrew said with a smile, still a bit in disbelief at how Project IV Love took off when he started the effort after the tragedy.

Killebrew, who graduated in 2010 with an art degree, has since helped raise more than $35,000 via the project’s website. He also designed a bench, the one with speckles representing the small indents on a basketball for Wang.

UCSB student Jessie Ong, right, learns how to plant irises Saturday at the People's Park planting day, with guidance from UCSB alum Dillon Polito. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
UCSB student Jessie Ong, right, learns how to plant irises Saturday at the People's Park planting day, with guidance from UCSB alum Dillon Polito. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

“Today is action,” he said. “Next week is dedication.”

Singing and speeches will accompany next Saturday’s 2 p.m. dedication, where Killebrew expected an even larger turnout.

By then, the lilac sage, sunflowers, irises and other native succulents should be firmly rooted, lining a winding dirt path that leads pedestrians past the benches, beginning with Michael-Martinez’s bench near the park center.

After a brief planting orientation — a sort of how-to for those lacking a green thumb — volunteers scattered, the stronger-willed of whom dug holes in tough soil for trees.

“It is my first time planting a tree,” said Jessie Ong, a third-year UCSB student who pitched in as a way to honor the students. “I feel like I don’t have much to offer.”

The general manager of nearby Woodstock’s Pizza was still sore from pulling weeds at the site the day before, but James Glover picked up a shovel all the same, encouraged by the good turnout despite it being Mother’s Day weekend.

The memorial was definitely a labor of love, said Rodney Gould, general manager of the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District.

“The fact we’re all here really shows that,” he said.

Katya Armistead, UCSB’s associate dean of student life and activities, threw her hands in the dirt as well, happy to assist a project through which students are giving back to students.

“It’s definitely a sense of healing,” she said.

In a section shaded by trees, families of several student victims toiled alongside everyone else. They worked quietly, an occasional smile passing across their faces.

“We want to do more,” said Killebrew, noting Project IV Love was still raising money for a plaque and permanent lighting.

Supporters hope the park will spotlight the Gaucho spirit and student victims long after they’re gone.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

This bench was designed in honor of David Chen, who was one of six UCSB students killed nearly a year ago in Isla Vista. The symbols and equations were selected to commemorate Chen's love for mathematics. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
This bench was designed in honor of George Chen, who was one of six UCSB students killed nearly a year ago in Isla Vista. The symbols and equations were selected to commemorate Chen's love for mathematics. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

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