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Jun 19, 2012 5:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Vandals May Be To Blame For Missing Memorial Honoring Samantha LeBrun

Jun 20, 2012 1:25 PM

Every day, Charlie LeBrun parks his car along the north side of Montauk Highway in Westhampton Beach, turns on his hazard lights so people coming around the curve will see him, and exits his car to hook up a hose to the fire hydrant nestled between the trees. He directs the hose to his right, watering the neatly planted garden that sits in front of the line of trees across from Aspatuck Road.

It is his way of visiting Samantha, his 17-year-old daughter, who died at that exact spot eight years ago while driving home from her after-school job at Julie’s Storybook Nursery. Mr. LeBrun’s life changed on March 4, 2004, and, ever since that fateful day, he has dedicated a part of his day to maintaining the roadside memorial garden that keeps the spirit of his youngest daughter alive.

At the center of the garden, which features a mix of blue hydrangeas and red geraniums, usually sits a powder blue wooden cross and a sign that reads “Samantha Jo LeBrun’s Garden, FTB.” The FTB, Mr. LeBrun explained, is a subtle message to the Westhampton Beach Board of Education after it denied a request made by Samantha’s friends and a teacher, shortly after her death, asking that a memorial garden be created at the high school in her honor. The board denied the

request, explaining that it did not want to set a precedent, and, on the night before Samantha was supposed to graduate, her friends created an impromptu garden at the high school.

The letters on the sign that they made mean, roughly: “Forget The Board.”

A short time later, before district officials could remove the items, Mr. LeBrun moved the sign and the cross to the memorial garden he had created near the accident scene. But while watering the garden last week, he noticed that both the cross and sign were missing.

“I was very upset,” Mr. LeBrun said this week. “I just want the cross and sign back.”

Initially, Mr. LeBrun thought it was possible that Southampton Town or Suffolk County had removed them as part of an order to clear public streets, citing a similar situation in East Quogue earlier this spring. In May, Southampton Town Parks Department officials removed a memorial dedicated to Cameron Nicholls from a public park in East Quogue in order to clean the park for the summer. Cameron, who lived on Quiogue and was 18 at the time of his death almost a year ago, was a passenger in a car that crashed into a parked vehicle near the East Quogue Village Green on the night of his high school graduation.

Immediately after the cross and sign went missing last week, Mr. LeBrun said he began calling the town and county in hopes of locating the memorial’s missing pieces. He was told, however, that neither municipality had a role in removing the items.

“I know nothing about any memorials being removed in Westhampton Beach,” said Christopher Bean, the superintendent of the Southampton Town Parks and Recreation Department. “We have not removed any memorials since May, so it was not the Parks Department.”

Calls to the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, which maintains county roads, including Montauk Highway, were not immediately returned. But Mr. LeBrun said county officials told him that they did not touch his daughter’s memorial. “I know a lot of people that work for the Town of Southampton and the county,” Mr. LeBrun said. “I knew I was getting an honest answer out of them.”

It now appears that vandals were the more likely culprit. Over the weekend, Mr. LeBrun said he found the cross, which was broken at its base, lying on the ground approximately 5 feet from the memorial, behind several trees. He said the cross, which he has since returned to its rightful place, features many handwritten messages written by Samantha’s friends. The sign that accompanied it is still missing, though.

“It is not about the cross itself,” said Susie LeBrun, Samantha’s older sister, before the cross was recovered by her father. “It is about who it represented, and the fact that her friends made it for her—it has sentimental value.”

Ms. LeBrun, who still lives and works in the village, said she wants the memorial 
fully restored so it can continue to honor her only sister and 
continue to serve as a reminder of the importance of safe driving.

“A lot of these memorials that you drive by, what they mean to the family is one thing, but it is also a reminder of driving safe,” she said. “The memorials keep in perspective how short life is.

“When I drive by my sister’s memorial, I don’t want to remember that my sister’s last moments were on the side of the road, surrounded by EMTs,” she continued. “I don’t want to remember that, but it is a real fact and it happened, and people need to see that.”

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What happened to a grave yard? all these roadside memioral should be removed, they're an eyesore to the community! Are we to put them up everywhere someone passes, in a hospital, nursing home? Some are more distracting to a driver who may be unfamiliar with the roads than they are a reminder of an drunk driver, inexperienced driver or ACCIDENT...... Just as someone has the right to put them up, you have the right to take them down and/or ask the county or town highway department to remove them. ...more
By Bond007 (22), Hampton Bays on Jun 20, 12 8:41 AM
Don't know the man or his family, only what's been presented here.

Not to "bash" or "write hateful things," but since Mr. LeBrun maintains the roadside memorial himself, the core of your position is without merit.

The rest of your "opinion" isn't worth the effort it would take to pen any "flack."
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 20, 12 6:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Since when would a memorial be considered an "eyesore"? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Jun 21, 12 3:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Jun 21, 12 3:52 PM
I agree with you Bond, these roadside memorials are a distraction that increase the risk of someone else getting killed. And eventually, given enough time, we'll be faced with one every few feet. That property is owned by someone else, or all taxpayers, and neither Mr. LeBrun not anyone else has the right to highjack it for their emotional self-interests.

I am sure this girl was very nice and Mr. LeBrun can find another more appropriate way to memorialize her without risking the safety ...more
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Jun 20, 12 1:44 PM
Bond and Funbeer are way out of line.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 20, 12 4:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
Perhaps you could try to support your assertion with some facts.; it must be novel, but pleae try. Consider whether Mr. LeBrun has any right to take over public property, or whether his rationale for the memorial (emphasize the importance of driving safely, etc.) is undone by the distraction of a structure on the shoulder of the road and risk to living drivers and pedestrians. What if another person were killed by another car trying to avoid hitting this, for instance? Is everyone permitted to ...more
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Jun 22, 12 11:41 AM
I drive by that curve all the time. Every time I notice the memorial, and take it as a reminder to slow down and be aware of bikes, pedestrians and other vehicles.
I also notice the care the goes into it, and think of the LeBrun family and their loss.
Roadside memorials do seem to be 'what the market will bear' - how long are they left undisturbed depends on the community. However I do not see how you can drive by a memorial and not think about driving more safely.
By quioguebirdfreak (25), quiogue on Jun 22, 12 4:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By G_J_V_Overbeck (24), Westhampton Beach on Jun 22, 12 10:02 PM
An eyesore?????.....Its a baby blue cross, Samanthas favorite color, and planting of flowers. She was just 17 when she passed away. I made that cross for the memorial. I was/am her best friend. It is in no way a distraction and far enough off the road where it is not hazardous to other drivers. It is meant to remind people to drive safely. She has been gone 8 years now and it has been maintained by her father, not the town! You do not pay for it to be taken care of. How would you feel if it was ...more
By hhhub (10), speonk on Jun 24, 12 12:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
I can see both sides of the arguement, and it got me thinking. Imagine this--every pedestrian fatality and car accident resulting in death now gets a five foot stretch of right of way near their accident for a memorial, regardless of who owns the property. If this was the case over the last 20 years there would be memorials everywhere. I do not mean to take away from the family's grieving process but after 8 years they should have been able to give her a proper memorial at an appropriate location.
Jun 30, 12 2:18 PM appended by AlwaysLocal
I'm not meaning to sound non-sympathetic, but I just feel that there should be a better place for a memorial.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jun 30, 12 2:18 PM