Amy Williams

Stella Maris unveils buddy benches

 

By Jolene Perron

 

A bench, which was dedicated to Michelle Fischer, was brought to Stella Maris last week and was joined by new buddy bench.

In the spring of 2013, after the passing of a beloved teacher and friend at St. Bernard School, staff and students wanted to honor her memory with a special bench. Amy Williams, Fisher’s sister and current teacher at Stella Maris said without knowing what a buddy bench was yet, they simply wanted to honor her memory and represent her theory of inclusion.

Michelle Fischer’s bench was joined by a second buddy bench, donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, which illustrates Principal Sophia DiPaolo’s motto for the 2016-17 year after they amalgamated with St. Bernard’s.

Michelle Fischer’s bench was joined by a second buddy bench, donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, which illustrates Principal Sophia DiPaolo’s motto for the 2016-17 year after they amalgamated with St. Bernard’s.

“We had a nice celebration there, and then when St. Bernard’s closed and they came over the Stella Maris, we were of course hoping the bench would come and it finally came so we are so happy,” said Williams. “As a family we’re completely humbled and just really honored that her legacy is going to live on. She was a very strong woman. She truly fought a really hard fight, she worked through chemo, she never felt sorry for herself. She was someone who just went about her day and got the job done and the fact that they want to honor that to us, there really is no greater honor as a family.”
Fischer’s bench is joined by a second bench, donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, which is personalized for the school saying “I am smart, I am strong, I can do anything, I am a Stingray,” which principal Sophia DiPaolo said symbolizes no matter who you are, no matter how good you are at something or perhaps not as good as someone else, it’s ok. She said this is something that we have been saying all year long and the kids really took to it.

Michelle Fischer’s Bench was brought to Stella Maris where her colleagues and sister currently work, in order to continue her legacy and honor her memory.

Michelle Fischer’s Bench was brought to Stella Maris where her colleagues and sister currently work, in order to continue her legacy and honor her memory.

“Our two school communities came together so beautifully this year and what a fantastic way to end it, by having this dedication ceremony,” said DiPaolo. “I think it just kind of solidifies the positivity, as sad as it was that St. Bernard’s closed down, it’s turned out to be a very positive thing in that the two communities came together so well and that’s really a tribute to parents, staff, and kids because if they didn’t make it work, it wouldn’t have worked. Mrs. Fischer was a very loved educational assistant at St. Bernard’s school … When our two school communities came together, and because she was such an integral part of that school community it was only right that we bring that bench in her honor to our school community.”

Students performed lyrical dances to songs with friendship themes during their dedication ceremony June 19.

Students performed lyrical dances to songs with friendship themes during their dedication ceremony June 19.

The second bench, which was donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, is part of a tour Margaret Slack is taking around Windsor and Essex County. She is Windsor Chapel Funeral Home’s community education specialist, and she, along with her daughter Abbey Neves, have been sharing a very personal story on their 2017-18 Road Less Traveled Imagine Tour.

“Abbey was bullied and we decided that we wanted to take her message on the road and try and create communities within our area that focus on inclusiveness, empathy and compassion, both inside the school and outside,” said Slack. “We had come across this idea of a buddy bench and I asked Windsor Chapel Funeral Home if they would support providing buddy benches to the schools we visit on tour and they said yes. In the dedication ceremony today, they really came together as a school community to use the message of faith to bring their community together so that they can become champions.”

So far, they have visited 20 schools, and already have seven more set up to visit in the fall.