NEW PALESTINE — Sean O’Leary put his foot on the top of the shovel, pushed down and dug deeply, trying to remove the grass near the north entrance of New Palestine High School, where band members frequently can be seen coming and going.
O’Leary, a sophomore, plays the saxophone in the school band. He and 64 other Dragon band members volunteered to turn a large patch of grass at the high school into a beautifully landscaped area to honor Abigail (Abby) Rejer, a freshman band member, who died unexpectedly last year.
“It’s really nice to do this for Abby,” O’Leary said. “She was my friend.”
Band director Shawn Humphries and his students collected several thousand dollars during their spring concert with the idea of doing something special for the family.
After some discussion, they decided to create a a landscaped area at the school for band members and all students to enjoy.
The path and rest area are complete with a rock walkway, benches, a large tree donated by Abby’s parents, plants and a memorial block to honor the young teen.
Abby was 15 when she passed away last spring. She was considered a rising star with the band and with her classes, school officials said.
Abby excelled academically and was always busy; she played the French horn in the school’s concert and pep bands — along with the piano, ukulele and guitar for fun. She liked to volunteer at the Hancock County Public Library and was a big animal-lover, friends said.
She was the daughter of Richard and Kristi Rejer. Her family found Abby unresponsive in their home March 30. An autopsy came back inconclusive.
During the spring concert, during which funds were collected for Abby’s family, the band also dedicated a song to Abby and encapsulated the music she liked to play and gave the keepsake to her loved ones.
While the area is a memorial for Abby, it also is a place for students to sit, relax, gather their thoughts and think about their futures, Humphries said.
“It’s for everybody to enjoy,” he said.