Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Former Sykesville resident remembered with memorial in Freedom Park

When former Sykesville resident Kristen Lee Dix passed away this past August following a car crash, her family decided they wanted a way to memorialize her and give them a place to go to remember her.

Kristen, 26, died Aug. 18, after a single-car automobile accident in St. Mary's County.

In lieu of flowers, Kristen's family asked that friends and relatives make donations to charities or do something in honor of Kristen. Since she was very fond of animals, and loved her dog Myley, many friends and family members donated to their local humane societies or animal shelters, said Kristen's grandmother, Ellen Dix.

"But we thought we would do something permanent, something more than just a donation in her name, so we came up with the idea for the memorial bench," she said. "Kristen was active in sports in the county, so it made sense to work with the county to put a bench in Freedom Park."

Ellen said she first approached Ken Whalen, president of Freedom Area Recreation Council, about putting a bench in Freedom Park. From there she contacted the county, and began to work with county officials.

Ellen and her youngest daughter are paying for the bench, she said, which will be a standard bench used in all county parks.

There is not an exact date set yet for when the bench will be installed, but Ellen said she expects it to be installed at the park by the end of this year.

"I do want to commend the county park planning people because they have been so helpful," she said. "They have made this project that my daughter and I are working on so much easier to do."

The bench will have a plaque which Ellen purchased from Woodland Signs, Inc. in Westminster.

"The plaque has a star on it next to Kristen's name, because she was our star," Ellen said.

Family members described Kristen as independent, outgoing and fun-loving, and said she had a smile that could light up a room.

"She loved the beach, rose-colored sun glasses and traveling to California to work," said Patti Ormiston, her aunt. "Krissy fit so much living into such a short period of time."

Kristen's aunt Mare Smith said her eldest niece lived life out-loud, touching everyone she met and connecting with people of all different ages and backgrounds.

Laurie Fink, another one of Kristen's aunts, said Kristen knew exactly what she wanted in life and would not allow any obstacle to get in her way.

"She certainly lived her life to the fullest shared with many wonderful friends and family," Laurie said. "It was almost as if she intuitively knew she wouldn't be on this earth for long."

Kristen grew up in the Sykesville area, graduating from South Carroll High School in 2004. She ran track, was a cheerleader, and was an honor roll student.

After high school, she went on to study at Frostburg State University, before graduating with her degree and moving to Southern Maryland where she got a job with the Navy, according to her grandmother and Eldersburg resident Ellen Dix.

Her job required her to travel to California, and she grew to love the West Coast, hoping to move there one day, Ellen said.

In May, only a few months before her death, Kristen received her master's degree in business administration.

More than 600 hundred people attended Kristen's funeral Aug. 25 in Catonsville.

"The funeral home director said they had never had a funeral there so large," Ellen said.

She Kristen's family and friends are coping with the loss of Kristen as best they can, and each person in their own way.

"I think that your body tells you a lot of what to do when you can't take anymore, you just withdraw and step back and you kind of isolate yourself," Ellen said. "We just stayed in the security of our home and really didn't socialize and we didn't continue or go back to work for a while. It was difficult, and of course now the holidays are coming it's going to make it difficult again."

Patti, who saw last saw Kristen in Ocean City a few weeks before her death, said her faith is getting her through this hard time.

"Fortunately my family was raised with a strong faith in God in all situations and a belief that there is more to life that what we experience on this earth," she said. "While we still cannot believe she is gone, we are grateful for each moment spent together and hopeful we will remain together forever in spirit."

Laurie said she is reaching out to family to cope with their loss.

"It is truly a devastating loss but our family is determined to make something good happen from it. We are coping with her death by hanging on to each other like a life raft," she said. "It has certainly made us all realize that we are very lucky to have each other and to make every day count."

Ellen echoed Laurie's sentiments, and said she learned from Kristen's death that it is important to cherish every day, and to make and effort to stay in touch with friends and family and tell them you love them while you still can.

"Everybody has regrets, and my regret is I didn't drive to Southern Maryland enough to see her. She visited up here, but I should have done more myself," Ellen said. "The only thing I want to tell people, is when you think about doing something like that, do it because you never know when it's your last chance."