Council rejects proposed Hansen memorial Proponent leaves meeting in tears

A Columbia resident abruptly left last night's Columbia Council meeting in tears after the council rejected her request, without a vote and with barely any discussion, for approval to establish a memorial to her friend John M. Hansen, former chairman of the council.

"It looked like they knew what they were going to do ahead of time then rubber-stamped the decision they made, and didn't discuss it or explain what was wrong," said Laura Waters, who had suggested ideas for a memorial at a previous meeting.


"I came to the council with what I thought were pretty reasonable requests. I don't understand," she said.

Ms. Waters went to the council last night seeking its blessing for a memorial and planned to return later for approval of a specific project. She had suggested planting a tree or placing a bench with a plaque at a Columbia lake, park or recreation area, or commissioning a written history of Columbia in remembrance of Mr. Hansen, who committed suicide eight weeks ago at his Harper's Choice village home.


Ms. Waters, a Harper's Choice village board member, said the issue appeared to become "political" because the village board already had set up a fund in Mr. Hansen's name and planned to dedicate a tree planted before he died.

She said she brought her ideas to the council as a private resident grieving the loss of a close friend, not as a village representative.

"It's almost like I violated some protocol because the village board did something else," said Ms. Waters, who dedicated a memorial garden at her home to her son, Alex, who died at age 17 in 1988 of complications from muscular dystrophy.

"The village board thought of something they could do and they did it, but they didn't give consideration to whether it meant anything to the person who died," she said.

The village board contributed $500 to a memorial fund for Mr. Hansen, to be divided evenly between the Family Life Center, to start a men's support group, and Grassroots, which offers suicide-prevention counseling.

Hope Sachwald, the Harper's Choice representative on the council, was the only council member to speak on the issue. She said the matter should remain with the village board and that she "disliked the idea of the council and the Democratic club working together. We're not a partisan organization."

Until this spring, Mr. Hansen was vice president of the Columbia Democratic Club, which has agreed to raise money for a memorial. He was a Harper's Choice village board member from 1987 to 1989 and a council member from 1989 until he resigned in May.

Following Ms. Sachwald's comment, Council Chairwoman Karen Kuecker concluded that Ms. Sachwald's view spoke for the council.


Ms. Waters, offered no chance to speak, left the room.

Ms. Waters said she might try to establish a memorial in Centennial Park through a program run by the county parks department