Heather-Lyn Manzi Memorial

I haven’t had much time for historical research lately, but I happened to stop at the bench by the memorial in Houston Park for Heather-Lyn Manzi. From the June 28, 2004 DelCo Times,

A memorial honoring a young Nether Providence Athletic Association (NPAA) soccer player who died in 2002 is now virtually complete.

Heather-Lyn Manzi was a fifth-grader who played on the Aztecs girls soccer team and died of leukemia at age 10. NPAA Soccer Vice President Jeff Sobel recently told the township Board of Commissioners that the memorial, located at the township-owned Robert Urban Recreational Fields complex (formerly known as the “Field of Dreams”) on Harvey Road needs just a few final touches.

It consists of a patio, two granite benches and a decorative stone with an etching of Heather on it. The area is professionally landscaped.

It took over a year for the memorial to come into being. Township commissioners at the time pushed back on the idea of a statue being installed at the park, which was at the time just coming into being. From the DelCo Times, March 31, 2003,

The statue would have helped welcome people to the Robert Urban Recreational Fields at the gala opening Saturday.

At the end of the parade, which starts at Nether Providence Elementary School, the procession would arrive at the fields on Harvey Road.

They would see the young girl’s arms spread wide into the air and the joyous smile on her face.

It’s the same joy that 10-year-old Heather-Lyn Manzi — who died of leukemia last October — had when she played soccer.

But there’s no smiles for the organizers that fought to have the memorial installed at the fields in time for this weekend’s grand celebration.

The statue won’t be there. Nether Providence commissioners, while saying that they are fully behind the memorial, worry that it could become the focal point of the “Field of Dreams,” not the fields themselves, which have been so long in the making.

Township commissioners at the time felt the statue would distract from the park and Urban’s legacy. The commissioners of the time got their way I guess, the memorial that got installed seems pretty unobtrusive. I found it a nice quiet place to read. From the same article,

(Nether Providence Board President Tom) Gallagher said that the commissioners don’t want the memorial to take away from the field and the plans to recognize Urban, who has been a big part of Nether Providence’s soccer success.

Today’s commissioners often have more mundane concerns about installations like this – who will be responsible for the upkeep. The memorial today is in need of some attention. The bricks have come up from the small patio and were lying in a heap. I put a few back and collected others that had started to stray into the nearby brush, but they’ll need to be set properly to stay in place. Something in the middle of the memorial has gone missing, there’s an oval shape where something went.

My son noted the brick marker in the park is looking a bit sad too, with the bricks at the base falling off. Its a reminder that everything we put into parks needs some kind of plan for upkeep. Maybe this brick and patio work would make a good Eagle Scout project? Or something NPAA could get behind?

Or maybe its a more fundamental human nature that we must recognize. That even our works of stone must eventually make way for new ones. From Shelley,

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Categories: History