A former Wellington resident wants to remind the village what a certain tree at the McCormick Middle School demolition site means to her.
Mary Yerardi-McArthur lost her 10-year-old daughter, Ashley Coey, on April 3, 1994, following an outdoor accident.
Ashley’s classmates and teachers at McCormick planted an ash tree in her memory following the tragedy. It still stands today.
McArthur was a 25-year Wellington resident at 150 Courtland St. until early 2015. An article about the McCormick demolition recently posted online prompted McArthur to come forward with her story.
“Ashley had been walking a dog along with her cousin,” said McArthur. “The dog was on a leash and got away from her. She went after it and fell down a very steep hill, which resulted in two skull fractures. This was the Saturday of Easter weekend near my parents house in Portsmouth, who we were visiting for the holiday. She was taken to the emergency room, then flown to Columbus children’s hospital where she was pronounced brain dead before passing away Easter morning.”
A service held around the tree at that time included poems from students and a presentation from McArthur for those who were having trouble grasping the situation. The ash tree was chosen as a namesake to Ashley, McArthur said.
“I gave a presentation because the kids were so young,” she said. “They asked me if I could explain what happened to Ashley because they were all on spring break when the accident happened. Seeing as how she passed on Easter, I put a stuffed bunny of hers at her desk and left it there until the end of the school year. I told the kids to use the bunny to say their goodbyes to her. It was rough. The Enterprise covered this and put the story on the front page.”
According to McArthur, further efforts to preserve the meaning of the tree were never carried out.
“I was told by the McCormick principal at the time that a plaque would be placed on the tree, but that never happened,” she said. “We started a scholarship fund in Ashley’s memory, which one of her classmates got for about $4,000 when they graduated. We were also told that Ashley’s donated organs ended up saving three adult lives.”
McArthur says Ashley’s tree along with other historical ties at the McCormick site must be preserved.
She has recently contacted mayor Hans Schneider about the issue and is encouraged by the feedback he has given.
“He is on board to help with the tree,” she said. “My advice would be that if this site is to become a park, to keep this tree and other ones that have significance to the community. Ashley loved living here in Wellington. Her ash tree is just now beginning to open its leaves.”
There are no plans to remove any additional trees from McCormick at this time.
Preserving the tree could be a challenge, though, as the emerald ash borer beetle has been attacking ash trees all over Wellington for a number of years.
A visual inspection of the tree in the near future is planned, according to village manager Steve Pyles.
Another tree on the old school’s site was reportedly planted in 1979 to honor the captives in the Iranian hostage crisis.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Mary Yerardi-McArthur stands in front of the ash tree dedicated to her daughter after she passed away in 1994.