A little more than a year ago, former Cassingham Elementary School teacher Mary McMullen helped Principal Jeannine Hetzler place a shovel in the ground and turn the first bit of dirt for what eventually would become the Molly Davis Memorial Garden.
Hundreds of teachers, students and community members joined McMullen in 2011, mourning the loss of her sister, a longtime, beloved teacher at Cassingham who unexpectedly lost her life in a car accident.
McMullen taught alongside her sister for many years.
Come August, Davis will be remembered with a school garden that Hetzler hopes will not only serve the school's students, but the community as well.
Aside from teaching, Davis was an avid gardener and writer.
"We want the garden to be as busy during the day as it will be in the evenings and weekends," Hetzler said. "We want this to be an extension of (Davis') practices."
According to Hetzler, work is nearing completion. A stone wall surrounding the garden, at the corner of South Cassingham Road and Elm Avenue, is nearly complete, as well is a walkway in the garden. After the hardscape is completed, planting and seeding will begin.
Hetzler said the garden will reflect Davis' personality. She applauded landscape architect Mark Schieber, whose children attended Bexley schools, for his expertise and attention to detail. Each plant has been specifically chosen in order to reflect Davis' qualities and her passions, Hetzler said.
"It's so incredibly thoughtful," Hetzler said.
Three benches will serve as reflection points for those who visit the garden. Hetzler said she and the school's Parent Teacher Organization, which has played a vital role in planning the garden, hope to add more benches so the area can be used as an outdoor classroom someday.
Former music specialist Deborah Forsblom donated a Peace Pole last year to be placed in the memorial garden.
A sculpture, created with input from students, will eventually be added.
Hetzler is hoping to have the garden completed by Aug. 29, Molly Davis Day at Cassingham. This will be the fourth year of the event that remembers Davis. Hetzler described it as "an opportunity for students and their former teachers to reconnect."
Davis, a 40-year teaching veteran, regularly hosted reunions with her former students. She was known for her practice of encouraging her fifth-graders to keep portfolios and then inviting them back to open the "time capsules" -- as she called them -- just before high school graduation.
The school established Molly Davis Day at the start of the new school year, providing a time during which all students at Cassingham Elementary return to their former teachers and give them an update on their lives and educational goals.
"It's become a very important tradition for us," said Hetzler, "but also bittersweet."
Funding for the project has been coordinated by the school's PTO, with particular leadership from Julie Cohen, the group's treasurer, Hetzler said.
She said donations and discounts from various partners have also helped the garden come to fruition, including Schieber and Landscape Architecture, brick mason Richard Bezuska, Dill's Greenhouse, Columbus Coal and Lime, Lang Stone and Architectural Gardens.
PTO members Ed and Megan Lafollette have also volunteered to coordinate and assist with garden support over the next three summers so that all the new plants get a healthy start.
"It's just been incredible," Hetzler said.
She will appear before the school board Aug. 11 to obtain the panel's final nod of approval.