On a day filled with sunshine, music and poetry, the prep school Yeardley Love attended reclaimed her name from the tragic headlines and put it back where she spent some of her happiest days: on a playing field.
"Sports brought out so many of her memorable characteristics — her fun-loving personality, dedication, loyalty and compassion for others," Lexie Love said Sunday at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, where a new turf field was dedicated to her sister. "I'm sure she's looking down on her field now with a big smile on her face and looking forward to seeing the many games played on it."
Several hundred people attended the dedication of the $1.2 million Yeardley Love Field, named for the Notre Dame Prep alum who was murdered in May 2010, just weeks before she would graduate from the University of Virginia. Her one-time boyfriend, George Huguely V, like Love a U.Va. lacrosse player, recently was sentenced to 23 years in prison for her murder.
The field was built with donations to the school as well as the One Love Foundation, which was started by her family and is working to raise awareness of dating violence. Speakers at the dedication, though, chose to look forward rather than backward, and find a way to draw something meaningful from the loss of Love.
"For all of us, Yeardley's death brought sadness and anger to the forefront of our lives," said Lisa Costello, Notre Dame Prep's co-head lacrosse coach. "But here today and moving forward on her field, it seems to me she has given us the opportunity to see the good, to promote the positive and to continue to always grow."
Costello remembered the young woman as someone who grew from "a somewhat reserved freshman to a song-singing, always smiling senior. … No one more aptly exemplified the transformative effect of sports than Yeardley Love.
"The best is yet to come. We will use this field to continue to grow," she said, "by challenging ourselves to use this space the way that Yeardley did and would have wanted us to do."
Students, school officials and Love's family members lit candles, sang, read poetry and sprinkled holy water on the field, which is decorated in light and bright blue, the colors of Love's 2006 graduating class.
Sister Patricia McCarron, who has been headmistress since Love's senior year, remembered her as a high-spirited girl with a beautiful smile and a name that reflected her big heart.
"We believe that her spirit, her energy will continue to spark the lives of all of us here gathered and future generations of Notre Dame women to make a difference in the world," she told the group gathered on the new field.
"This is the field that Love built, McCarron said. "Love poured out from Yeardley."
Meghan Bennett, 17, was a freshman when Love was murdered, and now, as a senior, is the captain of Notre Dame Prep's varsity lacrosse team. Bennett, who lit a candle to open the ceremony, said it will be an honor to play on a field dedicated to someone coaches and teachers refer to often.
"We get told every day, smile like Yeardley. The coaches tell us to play like Yeardley," Bennett, who has committed to the Naval Academy for college, said after the dedication.
And, in the wake of her murder, which Bennett called "so tragic, so unbelievable," Love has left another legacy. "We've been told about dating violence," Bennett said, "and all the things you should watch out for."
Love's mother, Sharon, herself a 1967 graduate of Notre Dame Prep, said it was amazing to see the field completed after the years spent raising funds and watching it being built.
"It was overwhelming to think that it's done, and that we really accomplished it," she said. "It's such a great reminder of Yeardley, and it's such a legacy for Yeardley's name. It's such a perfect match for Yeardley's personality."
While she also played field hockey, she "loved lacrosse the most," Sharon Love said. The One Love Foundation has started lacrosse teams in Baltimore as part of its work.
"This has been a wonderful day," Sharon Love told those gathered for the dedication of the field.
"Yeardley's legacy begins today and takes its direction from Corinthians," she said, quoting the Biblical verse. "Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. Your every act should be done with love."
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