Marker#039;s removal upsets mother

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 3, 2003

For some travelers, they are an unusual sight, solemn white crosses on the roadside, garlanded with bright flowers. To all Southerners, most Westerners, and all Mexicans, their meaning is clear. Someone died here. Remember them. Pray for them.

The roadside crosses that mark the sites of fatal accidents derived from the Mexican "descansos," according to historian Rudolfo Anaya who wrote "Traditionally, descansos were memorials erected at the places where the funeral procession paused to rest on the journey between the church and the cemetery. The association thus created between the road, the interrupted journey,

and death as a destination, eventually found expression in the practice of similarly marking the location of fatal accidents on the highway.

The crosses have also come to be placed at other fatal scenes, like the pier at Point A where a young child, Ernest Ray Coons, 5, drowned Oct. 4 last year. When the child's parents stopped by to visit, they found the cross gone.

"It felt like they desecrated his grave," said his mother, Juliann Coons. She approached Greg White, chairman of the Covington County Commission, to find out what had happened and what the county could do about it.

According to White, most of the roadside crosses on roads and highways are placed on the back side of the right-of-way and left undisturbed by the county, even when mowing.

"Basically, we try to leave them alone," said Darren Capps, county engineer. "We cut around them."

At Point A, however, White said the memorial wreath was close to the public access of the pier and could interfere with people, as well as with the reconstruction work beginning on the pier.

Coons said the marker was a wreath on a tripod with a laminated photograph in it. White stated that the wreath has been saved for the family, and that he wants the family to realize the county has compassion for their grief and loss.

"It was a tragic thing," he said of the drowning. "We want to memorialize her son in what we think is a more appropriate way," said White.

Because the wreath had to be moved, unlike the roadside crosses, White has volunteered to purchase a plaque memorializing Ernest Ray. The plaque will be placed permanently on the pier after it has been rebuilt.