Local residents and visitors from around the state gathered Thursday at the Union County Courthouse for a ceremony that highlighted grief, remembrance and community as the 2023 additions to the LifeTouch Hospice Community Wall were unveiled.
Established in 2001, the Community Wall benefits the local hospice program while giving local residents a way to remember and honor their lost loved ones. The bricks that line the retaining wall around the Union County Courthouse are all part of the Community Wall.
"It's a profound thing that here on the Square, we get to have this space," said Tyler Turner, outreach coordinator for LifeTouch Hospice. "At the heart of our city, our loved ones are honored."
During the short ceremony Thursday, Turner -- who himself has three grandparents remembered on the Community Wall -- was emotional as he recounted past year's unveilings. Previously, the ceremony has included balloon releases and a butterfly release. This year, those who placed bricks on the wall were gifted plants.
"They're not gone forever," Turner said. "That butterfly flies away... Our loved ones are with us.... (Plants) live with you, just like they all live with you."
Capt. Eric Meadows of the Union County Sheriff's Office sang a heart-wrenching rendition of Vince Gill's "Go Rest High on the Mountain," bringing several of the event's attendees to tears.
With this year's additions, the Community Wall now holds approximately 1,304 bricks, Turner said. He expects the tradition to continue next year, at which time LifeTouch Hospice will be operated by Arkansas Hospice.
"That's 1,300 people -- names, memories, love -- that continue being here," Turner said. "This is a privilege and honor (LifeTouch) holds dearly."
Letitia Thrower and Joyce Benton both came to the unveiling to see the brick for QT Jackson, Thrower's father.
"I think this is a good thing they're doing around the Square," Thrower said, noting that her mother, Hazel Jackson, was also memorialized on the wall with a brick in 2009.
Benton, who travelled from Little Rock for the ceremony, said she plans to memorialize her grandparents and mother on the wall next year.
"I think this is wonderful," she said. "I enjoyed the program."
Jeff and Michelle Lyons memorialized their son, Rylee, a 2022 Junction City High School graduate who passed away at 18. In attendance with them was Rylee's infant son, Reverie.
"It's amazing. That's what's wonderful about a small town," Michelle Lyons said of the Community Wall.
Jeff Lyons added, "It's nice -- nice for the community. Any time I'm on the Square, I can walk by and see him."
For more information about the Community Wall, visit lifetouchhospice.org.