Memorial barn comes down in Stanwood

STANWOOD — Though the barn is gone, the young people whose names were painted on it aren’t forgotten.

The memorial barn, located just off Marine Drive south of town, had fallen into disrepair and was torn down last week.

At first, much to the irritation of the farmer who owned it, the barn was decorated annually by Stanwood High School graduating classes wanting to leave their mark.

Then a kid died, most don’t remember for certain who it was, and the high school students instead painted a dedication to their friend.

RIP. Love you. Miss you.

For many years, it continued. The farmer stopped fighting it and the barn became known to all who lived in northwest Snohomish County. The names of victims of cancer, car accidents or other catastrophes were emblazoned across the barn and then painted over after the next kid died.

Leanne Floyd used to tell her children that she never, ever wanted to see their names on that barn.

Then one night in 2010, her daughter Ellen, just 17, was killed in a crash.

One of those who showed up the next day to paint Ellen’s name on the barn was Leanne Floyd’s friend, Megan Dascher Watkins.

Watkins, now the leader of the Stanwood Memorial Barn Resurrection group, put up $8,000 last week to buy the barn and have it carted off. The idea is that, with financial support from others, it will be rebuilt in a sculptural form somewhere in the Stanwood area to continue its job as a place for teens to remember their deceased friends.

“It’s my gift to the community,” Watkins said. “That’s how important the barn is to me.”

Watkins and her family moved to Stanwood from Mercer Island, a place she describes as being void of a sense of community. The memorial barn was just one indication that Stanwood had community, Watkins said.

In 2011, Watkins and some of her friends painted the word “Believe” on the barn. From the road, the message looked like Be Live and it was meant to encourage teens to be safe.

“Later, when another teen died, I realized we couldn’t change the tone of what got painted on the barn,” Watkins said. “Painting that barn with a ‘rest in peace’ for a friend was cathartic and healing.”

Anthony Comstock, another car accident victim, was one of the last names painted on the barn before it was dismantled. Kristy Comstock, his mother, said the barn played an important role for grieving families, including hers.

“It served as an expression of our eternal love,” she said. It (was) soothing to our souls and helped to heal our broken hearts.”

Comstock said she was saddened when she heard that the barn had to be torn down.

“I pray that our community can pull together to help save the barn so that its legacy lives on,” Comstock said. “I hope we can make this happen so that many other generations, including our children and their children, can use it as all of us have for many years.”

Joe Fattizzi, the real estate agent who donated his time to broker the deal with the barn’s owner and Watkins’ group, said he, too, was touched by what the barn represented.

During a rough time in his life, Fattizzi stopped by the barn to photograph a message someone had painted there. “What will your story be?” it said.

“The owner of the farm wanted to raze the barn because it was in dangerous condition and a potential liability,” Fattizzi said. “He couldn’t sell the property with the barn on it. I jumped in to see if I could help.”

When the barn is rebuilt it will be just one story tall and open on all sides so that people can use both inside and outside walls to paint inspirational and memorial messages.

Now they just need a place to put the barn, Watkins said. That’s proving to be a difficult task, however. So far, nobody wants it.

Still, Watkins said she is not giving up. Leanne Floyd hopes she won’t.

“After Ellen died, there were times when I just wanted to burn the barn down,” Floyd said. “I felt like it was taking our kids away. Later I realized it was showing love and respect. It also made me realize that I am not the only mother missing my child.”

Floyd said she, too, hopes Watkins’ dream to resurrect the barn comes true.

“Perhaps somebody who is able or has influence might pay attention to this situation and help us,” Floyd said. “The barn sculpture would be a place for us to go and talk about our kids. It keeps Ellen alive to be able to talk about her.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

How to help

A bonfire in remembrance of the barn is set for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at the former site of the memorial barn. For more about the Stanwood Memorial Barn Resurrection Committee’s efforts, go to www.facebook.com/groups/613720375341028. To donate to the cause, go to www.gofundme.com/5b2vj4.

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