By Kaitlin Manry
Graffiti keeps the old barn alive, bright with color beside a creek, fruit trees and cucumber fields.
Discarded paint rollers, rotting plywood and mounds of trash surround the barn.
Words become apparent.
“RIP BIG ROB 1-16-83 — 7-26-06.”
“U will always be in my heart.”
Messages of loss and memory.
For many, grief takes a cold, gray shape.
For others, cans of spray paint and this 72-year-old barn feel right. More fitting. Less formal. Like life.
Year after year, Alfonso Moreno sees his barn change color with every young death in Stanwood. Dayna Fure, 18, murdered. Kevin Houston, 15, a fall. Justin Stump, 17, a car crash.
Moreno’s barn is important. It’s good wood. He’s proud it’s his.
Shannon and Robert “Bob” Hawley drive past and remember Robby.
Their diapered baby falling asleep anytime his dad put him in a boat.
An adventurer, 9, sweet-talking his way from Redmond to that family party on Orcas Island.
A teenager, working for his parents, dropping $30,000 into an Acura for street racing. He sold it, to Shannon’s relief.
A young man filling college notebooks with elaborate sketches of boats, castles and BMWs. His creativity was a marvel — so unlike their family of rational thinkers.
The motorcycle Robby bought, secretly, and rode home as a surprise.
Later that night, the officers’ knock.
Their peace shattered.
The day after the funeral, Bob dipped his hands in blue paint, pressing them against the barn’s strong side. “Dad,” he wrote. Shannon followed, writing “Mom” above her prints.
Months later, they vanished, painted over by a new life lost. A boy’s suicide, another shock, fresh grief.
Robby’s name is still on the roof. His parents drive past. They honk, cry, say hi. Tell him where they’re going, that they miss him.
Robby Hawley was 23 when he died July 26, 2006. The names of young people who died in the Stanwood-Camano Island area often are painted on the Moreno farm’s barn, on Marine Drive. The farm is for sale.