By Victoria Slater, Managing Editor
It didn't matter what it was to Rebecca Eldemire - if it was living, she loved it. Since her death on Feb. 1, the 21-year-old has left behind a passion for anything green, and a determined drive to protect it.
Now, Miami University's geography department plans to memorialize Becca's ecological mission and commitment to nature, and sustain it for years to come.
If everything goes according to plan, and enough fundraising is secured, the Native Landscape Garden in Memory of Rebecca Eldemire will be unveiled next spring along with the renovations to Shideler Hall.
"Becca's life and work enriched this university," said geography professor and Becca's former adviser David Prytherch. "We hope the Miami community can join us in honoring her commitment to learning and the environment on this campus she loved so much."
Plans for the memorial call for a small garden to be planted in the west courtyard of Shideler Hall, a place where Becca devoted much of her time and work as a geography and geographic information systems (GSI) double major at Miami. Initial designs for the garden include many of Becca's favorite plants, such as milkweed, to support a population of monarch butterflies and flowers fit for bees and hummingbirds. The garden may also utilize a storm water feature to collect rain, to commemorate Becca's dedication to sustainability and ecology.
"We want to build a place that everybody can enjoy," Prytherch
said. "Classes will be able to use this space to learn about native landscapes and native geology. But it can also be a place where one can just go to relax and reflect."
Among those involved in the planning of the memorial garden is Dean of Students Mike Curme. After Becca's death, he reached out to the Eldemire family with the idea of planting a tree to honor Becca's memory.
"Knowing Becca's interest in nature, we explored the option of having a tree planted, and her parents loved the idea, and suggested we do something like a sycamore or a ginkgo," he said.
The initial plans were to have the tree planted on Western Campus, whose hiking trials Becca frequently enjoyed and where she lived her freshman year. However, conversations with Becca's families and friends brought the idea to Shideler Hall, Becca's "home away from home."
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"Shideler was Becca's home," said Marlene Eldemire, Becca's mother. "That's where she spent all her time, and she could never stop talking about it. It just seemed perfect."
When Curme suggested the tree planting to the geography department, which will be housed in Shideler once the renovations are complete in January, Prytherch immediately proposed the idea of a full garden that could be easily integrated into the current construction efforts.
Within the garden, the tree will serve as the main memorial, while the garden itself will serve a much greater purpose to the Miami community.
"Depending on size and spacing, the tree will represent the entry way, the more direct tribute to Becca, whereas the garden itself is a nod toward sustainability," Curme said.
While the geography department has consulted the Physical Facilities Department about the garden, plans for its development are yet to be finalized. Miami University will cover much of the cost as part of the Shideler renovations, but Prytherch said he hopes to raise at least $10,000 in donations through the Shideler Hall Renovation and Love and Honor funds.
"A lot of this depends on donor support, but people can also donate as simply as contributing a flower or something in that nature to the garden," Prytherch said.
While the plans for the garden are not set in stone, Marlene Eldemire said she is blown away by the university's outpouring of support since Becca's death. In addition to the planned memorial, Becca will receive an honorary degree at Commencement May 16, which her brother Josh (Miami '14) will accept on her behalf.
"Miami has truly gone above and beyond and we are so grateful for everything they have done for us," Eldemire said.
Prytherch said the memorial is just a small acknowledgement of all Becca accomplished in her short life, but it will be able to carry on the work she never got to finish.
"Becca inspired this garden like she inspired us," Prytherch said. "It's more than a memorial, but a living space to inspires others. We, like her family, think that's exactly how she would have wanted it."
To donate to the Natural Landscape Garden in Memory of Rebecca Eldemire, visit the Shideler Hall Renovation fund website at www.forloveandhonor.org.