GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A crowd gathered in front of College Park Elementary Monday for a memorial dedicated to two lives lost too soon.
"Something like this gives you the ability to not necessarily sit and grieve the fact that they're gone, but to look at that beauty and rejoice in the time that they were here," widower Matt Johnson said.
A bench - pairing beauty with tragedy. It's a memorial to dedicated College Park Elementary PTO member Ashton Johnson and her daughter, Kinsey, who died in a car accident last year.
"We're able to do something like this that's the opposite of all this sadness and in such beauty be able to recognize what they meant to us and what they will continue to mean to us," Paige Roberts said.
Masterminded by fellow PTO member Paige Roberts, the process took some time. But after coming up with a concept and finding local artist Elizabeth Veglia to create the project, things kicked into motion.
Up until the unveiling, Ashton's husband Matt hadn't seen the final product.
"I wanted to be surprised after talking with Mrs. Veglia, who did the artwork here. I told her about the girls - who they were, the kind of things that they liked - and trusted her artistic abilities," Johnson said. "I wanted to just take it in, in that moment."
With community, family, and friends all watching, Johnson's eyes glistening as he took that first look
"When we pulled the cover off and I was able to see it for the first time, it was just phenomenal, breathtaking. I think she captured them both perfectly," Johnson said.
"When I started to do the mosaic, I looked carefully at the photographs. I didn't want to do a face, but I saw that the hands in the photograph with the child's hand over the mother's. The rose connects with Ashton and the bud connects with Kinsey," Veglia said.
Veglia's hope is that the bench will share a message of love and peace and unity, while leaving a piece of Ashton and Kinsey on the grounds forever.