Buddy bench placed in memory of ‘favorite’ Burgin teacher

Published 8:22 am Friday, March 17, 2017

Students collected plastic bottle caps to create bench

BURGIN — The sun shone brightly on the students and staff of the Burgin Independent School as they gathered for a solemn ceremony Thursday afternoon, memorializing a beloved teacher with a “buddy bench.”

Kendra Peek/kendra.peek@amnews.com
Burgin Board of Education Chairperson Bob Clark, left, speaks during the memorial event honoring Sara Berry, a Burgin teacher who was killed in a car crash on New Year’s Eve, while Berry’s husband Dennis and daughter Payton look on.

Students read aloud from letters they had given Sara Maynard Berry over her years as a teacher at Burgin. She was described as a “favorite” teacher, as one with a “big smile,” and as a “best friend,” by students.

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Principal Chris LeMonds explained to students and Berry’s family that the letters were found in her desk.

“They were dear to Sara’s heart,” he said. “They show the love she had for her students.”

“Thank you for your effort — we will never forget Sara Berry.”

Another staff member, Berry’s sister-in-law Natalie Berry, sang “We’re going to be friends.”  School board chairperson Bob Clark recognized Berry’s husband, Dennis, and their children Payton and Devin, and Berry’s work for the students of Burgin. Her students and fellow teachers released blue balloons.

Berry was killed in a head-on collision on New Year’s Eve, when, according to archives of The Advocate-Messenger, she lost control of her vehicle.

A few days later, LeMonds said after the ceremony, teachers brought the idea of collecting bottle caps, to be recycled into a “buddy bench” for the playground. The bottle caps, which can come from the tops of milk jugs, soda and water bottles, butter containers and more, are recycled into benches and other outside furniture.

He was amazed at how quickly the caps were collected.

Kendra Peek/kendra.peek@amnews.com
The inscription on the “buddy bench,” in memory of Sara Berry, a teacher at Burgin School. The school collected enough bottle caps for the bench, a picnic table, and still had plenty left over to donate to another Mercer County organization.

“My thoughts were, it was going to take six to nine months,” LeMonds said.

They launched the project the second week of January. By Feb. 13, they took the bottle caps to get the bench made. The school had collected enough caps for the bench, a picnic table and still had “several hundred pounds” left over. According to Burgin Independent School’s Facebook page, 1,447 pounds of acceptable lids were collected. It takes 1,100 pounds to make a picnic table and 500 pounds to make the eight foot bench that was chosen.

“We had bottle caps showing up from everywhere,” LeMonds said.

Students from Mercer County Elementary School, who had been collecting caps for their own project prior to Berry’s death, donated to Burgin’s collection, he said.

“It was a true community effort,” LeMonds said.

The extras, he said, were given to the Kendyl and Friends organization, for a project they are working on.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.