By Kellen M. Quigley | July 17, 2020 | Reprinted from the Salamanca Press
SALAMANCA — About one month after the death of retired Salamanca teacher Cindy Mohr due to complications from COVID-19, those who knew her have come up with a way to memorialize her impact on the community.
A movement is underway to rename Triangle Park at Broad Street, Kent Boulevard and High Street in Mohr’s honor, retiring the name of Simon Bolivar from the park.
Salamanca resident Justin Schapp created the Facebook group “Cindy Mohr Triangle Park” on June 25, and within three weeks it has grown to nearly 1,000 members.
Schapp said his family watched Mohr’s funeral procession through the city June 19 and could see dozens of people gathering in Triangle Park, and that’s when the idea began to form.
“As a former student of Cindy’s, and talking to everybody else about her and the incredible amount of support, I just posed it out there for people on the Facebook group to test the waters,” he said, “and everybody said that’s exactly what should happen.”
Although he created the Facebook group, Schapp said the community immediately stepped up and made the movement something everyone could be a part of.
“So many people who either had Cindy as a teacher or knew her have reached out to me and the group specifically and shared their stories,” he said. “Those are the role models that we want. We want good teachers here. We want good people. It’s our responsibility to uplift those people and tell everybody this is the kind of person we want to be more like.”
The Seneca and Salamanca communities had been following the coronavirus-related tragedies that happened in Mohr’s family — her mother, Norma Kennedy, and sister, Diane Kennedy, had also died from COVID-19 just a few weeks earlier.
Schapp said he and other group members have been in contact with Mohr’s family and want to give them the time and space to mourn before moving ahead with the project. He said they support the idea and plan to post a message of support on the Facebook group.
“This isn’t anything we want to push on anybody. It’s not anything we’re trying to force down anybody’s throat or demand,” Schapp added. “It’s no disrespect to anybody who enjoys Simon Bolivar. We want to make sure they’re respected and their time in that park is appreciated.”
In addition to the many posts and comments supporting renaming the park after Mohr, several others said they didn’t know who Simon Bolivar was or why the park was named after him.
“Everybody rushed to Google to search Simon Bolivar. I want kids in the future to Google ‘Cindy Mohr,’” Schapp said. “They all know who Jefferson was, they know the idea behind Vets Park, but they don’t really know Simon Bolivar.”
Although smaller and less known than other parks in the city, Schapp said renaming Triangle Park after Mohr is an opportunity for the community to enjoy it in a new light. He said she deeply cared about everyone, and now they can return the favor by caring more about this space.
“When someone passes away too young, and we know they still had contributions to give, our human inclination is to recognize that and say this person had more to give,” he added. “We want to showcase what they’ve already given because they were so great.”
The next step is to develop a petition both online and in paper form for community members to sign, Schapp said. He said they also hope to have Mayor Michael Smith and Nation President Rickey Armstrong meet on the issue to get the official transition in motion.
“My understanding is the stuff that was there for Simon Bolivar can be placed in another location or at the historical society,” he added. “It’s a part of the local community’s history, which adds some value to the historical society.”
As the process moves forward, Schapp said the group and Mohr’s family will continue to brainstorm ideas of how to reinvent the space to honor her by symbolizing her impact on the community. He said the impact COVID-19 has had will also play a role.
“People are looking to the future a year or two years from now when we’re dedicating this space and doing it right,” Schapp added. “We’re reimagining a new park for the city, and this is a rebirth of the city movement. People here are willing to accept change and want to be a part of it, and that’s amazing.”