By Jeff Gallatin
A man who for years helped many students and community members blossom in the arts had a memorial garden dedicated to him Saturday at North Olmsted High School.
A group of admirers formally dedicated the memorial garden to longtime North Olmsted High School band director John Kepperley, who also was active in school musical and theatrical productions, as well as various community organizations.
North Olmsted High School senior Grace McDougall helped spearhead the work on the garden as part of earning her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn.
She said doing a project involving someone who helped her and her interest in music was an easy move.
“I unfortunately never got to experience having Mr. Kepperley as a teacher,” she said. “However, I knew him because of all of my musical involvement, and he was a very involved member of the community. The first time I met him was at an all-city orchestra I am involved in, Strolling Strings. It was playing a concert for Kiwanis. Mr. Kepperley was a member of Kiwanis, and after the concert he came up to me and he told me he thought I was a very talented violinist, and we proceeded to have a half-hour conversation about music.”
McDougall said it is nice being able to blend her love of music with the desire to help the community and honor Kepperley.
“Music has been a huge part of my life,” she said. “I have played the violin since age 4, and the flute/piccolo since the fifth grade. Therefore, when it came time to do my Gold Award, I wanted to do something with music because I believed this was the best way that I could impact the community. I decided to build a garden for Mr. Kepperley because I wanted to honor him, and give back to him just like he had always given back to our community.”
She also said many other people and organizations played a role in the project.
“My Gold Award Project advisor was Mr. Curt Meike,” she said. “He was the person that helped me design the garden and coordinate donations. At the school I worked with (North Olmsted police school resource) Officer (Jim) Carbone, and he helped with the the actual logistics of the garden, and the steps I had to go through with the school. The people that helped me to plant the garden were Officer Carbone, the North Olmsted High School Environmental Club, Mrs. Whitehouse, Ms. Kilbane and my mom. The organizations that donated to the garden were the Environmental Club, North Olmsted Kiwanis, Zergott Landscaping, Sunbeam Gardens and Lowe’s Greenhouse. So far there has been a very positive reaction to the garden, and many people have told me that they love it.”
McDougall said the the garden contains many flowers, and the majority of them have a music-themed name (Conductors Limelight, trumpet vine, bellflower). She added a plaque has been ordered to go in the garden to honor Kepperley. In the future, the Environmental Club and Officer Carbone will maintain the garden, she said.
McDougall said she is doing other music-related work for her award, something Kepperley would appreciate.
“Additionally for my Gold Award I am having a musical workshop at the library sometime this winter,” she said. “At the workshop I will be making musical instruments with the children that attend, and I will be teaching them some fundamental things about music. I truly believe that music should be a fundamental part of all children’s upbringing, just like it was for me. I don’t know where I would be without my musical experience, and I want all children to have this experience.”
Paul Schumann, who along with his wife, Julie, were longtime friends of Kepperley and his family and worked with him on many community projects, said the garden is an appropriate honor.
“It’s something really nice and a great way to honor him,” Schumann said. “He was taken from us too soon and we miss him.”