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Columbia's Kittamaqundi church erects statue to Libby Rouse

Barbara Lawson can only come up with one word to describe how Kittamaqundi Community Church's prayer garden came to pass: synchronistic.

While Lawson says the serendipitous dominoes surrounding the Columbia church's garden's creation are numerous, it is epitomized by the garden's centerpiece: a four-foot bronze statue of Libby Rouse – the first wife of Columbia founder James Rouse and a church charter member.

"I felt like it was meant to be, from the beginning," Lawson said standing in the half-finished garden this week.

Even Jimmy Rouse, Libby and James' son and a Baltimore-based artist who commissioned, designed and sculpted the statue, can't help but be awed how things fell into place.

"I'm not a religious person, per se, but I can't help but be impressed by everything," he said. "It's almost like my mother's hand was there making it happen."

The statue, which depicts a 10-year-old Libby Rouse standing sheepishly with her pet dog sitting in front of her, was installed June 24 and was dedicated, along with the rest of the public garden, at a church ceremony Sunday, June 29.

The story of how the statue and the garden came to be began on separate tracks in 2010. That year, Libby died and in her will put aside $75,000 for a memorial to be erected in her honor somewhere in Columbia.

"Because they got divorced three or four years after Columbia got started and my father remarried, my mother was out of the picture, and it bothered her that she never got any acknowledgment for her role in Columbia," Jimmy Rouse said.

Rouse said he quickly took on the task laid out in his mother's will, and began searching for ways to memorialize her – which led him to connect with Lawson through former Columbia Association President Pat Kennedy.

At the same time, Kittamaqundi Community Church, which Libby Rouse helped found, began cultivating the idea for what would become the garden. Lawson, a church member and one of the garden's planners, said Kennedy's idea to put the statue in the garden fit in exactly with what the church was looking to do.

"Libby took the call to start the church here," said Lawson. "Libby was very involved in how to create community within Columbia."

The church held fundraisers to collect the remaining $75,000 needed to complete the garden, which includes a wooden awning, pathways, a pond and a memorial area, as well as flowers and planting, while Jimmy Rouse went ahead with statue.

The completion of the garden and the statue have synced up to this month, which has resulted in the installation and dedication.

Lawson said the garden will be open to the public, and can be rented for weddings or other functions.

"We want this to be a public garden [for] anyone in this neighborhood, anyone in Howard County for that matter," she said. "It's a quiet place to come and reflect; there isn't another garden like this in Columbia, that I'm aware of. ... It's part of our outreach to the community."

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