Grieving mother Stephanie Nicholls says sunny days are hard for her because they remind her of her son, , who died tragically last June in an East Quogue car accident just hours after graduation. However, Nicholls said comfort and solace were found in an impromptu memorial her son’s friends created beneath a tree in the park on. That is, until Wednesday.
Nicholls said she was devastated to learn that the memorial, which sat against the tree and was created out of handwritten notes, artwork, and fragile tributes to her son’s short life, had been removed without her knowledge.
“The tree not only grew during the past year, it became a place not only for his friends, but family, as well, to grieve,” Nicholls said in an email Friday. “It became part of the healing process, especially for the kids.”
Friends left angels, butterflies, shells, poems, cards, pictures, artwork, flowers, and other remembrances beneath the tree, Nicholls said.
Someone even left a rosary, Nicholls said, but when the memorial was dismantled, a cross was broken off and left lying in the dirt.
Nicholls has since learned that T, under the direction of Chris Bean, dismantled the memorial without warning.
“This was sacrilegious, disrespectful, heartless and hurtful,” Nicholls said, especially since a candlelight memorial vigil is planned at the site to commemorate the anniversary of Cameron’s death on June 26.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said on Wednesday that no “insensitivity or disrespect” was intended by the removal of the memorial, and that town staffers were just cleaning up the park in advance of Memorial Day and the summer months. She also said that the town was unaware of the planned memorial.
“Our hearts go out to Cameron’s family,” Throne-Holst said.
The supervisor said the town will work with the Nicholls family to create a lasting memorial of some kind at the site — and said she notified proper officials of the planned memorial.
But for Nicholls, removal of the tributes is another blow to a wounded heart.
“This is a very rough time of year,” she said, with the one year anniversary of her son’s death and graduation approaching. “Mother’s Day was hard and people’s kids are coming back from college — he should be coming back from school. This just makes the pain very fresh. You think you’re getting through the year and all of a sudden it brings it back up, like it happened yesterday.”
The memorial, said Nicholls, reminded her family “that people still care and remember Cameron. That he was here, that he lived. To have that taken away was horrible. It was another loss.”
All she wanted, Nicholls said, was a phone call to tell her it would be removed.
Throne-Holst said this was the first time such an incident had occurred in Town and said the lesson learned would guide future such occurrences.
The irony, Nicholls added, is that her son worked for the town, teaching windsurfing, his passion, to young people. A memorial fund in Cameron’s name will be used to provide Fresh Air Fund recipients to learn to windsurf, in her son’s memory.
Although DWI charges were initially leveled at East Quogue teen , who was driving the night Cameron died, they were eventually dismissed; Geib faced lane violation and imprudent speed charges. The case is ongoing with the next court date scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m.