Students, former classmates honor child hikers killed 50 years ago

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:37 PM

Rachel Trotter, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

OGDEN – The memories of a hiking fall that killed three Wasatch Elementary students 50 years ago are still fresh for those who lived it – not just the families of the children, but the classmates as well.

That’s why the former third-grade classmates of those youth – Bonnie Ross, Mark Way and Shauna Southwick — made a special presentation to the families, and Wasatch Elementary’s current third graders put on a special program to honor them.

Bobbi Hansen, one of those classmates and friends of the victims, came up with the idea and approached principal Donna Corby at the start of the school year. Hansen wanted to share a music program that she developed a few years ago called, “We Are Amazing,” with songs that she feels give children hope and courage to succeed and rise above hard times.

Hansen thought it would be a great program for the Wasatch students to help honor the former students of 50 years ago.

They decided to do it at the first of the year rather than wait until the actual anniversary of the tragedy, which is Dec. 26.

Corby said the district is now thinking of adding the music program throughout the district.

“I though it was appropriate to honor my class – we call it the golden class,” Hansen said of the program and the special night to honor the victims.

Hansen invited as many members of that third-grade class as she could find to Thursday’s program. She then invited them up to the front of the auditorium so they could honor Ross, Way and Southwick.

The alumni presented the families of the victims with a plaque that will hang in the halls of Wasatch Elementary with the victims’ names and some special tributes. “We want to honor the greatness in children,” Hansen said. “We have fond memories here.”

As the families gathered around the plaque, the room was quiet. Sue Southwick Alley, sister of 8-year-old victim Shauna Southwick, addressed the crowded room of families and students. She explained what happened all those years ago. She was 10 at the time.

The day after Christmas, the three good friends and neighbors set out on a hike. “It was a normal thing to do in those days,” Alley said. “They set out on an adventure, the three of them.”

When none returned in a timely fashion, a search party was raised. That night after dark, their bodies were discovered near the base of the waterfall in Waterfall Canyon east of town.

“It was a terrible tragedy and a great loss,” Alley said.

She added that the families were extremely touched that Hansen and the other former students would want to memorialize their siblings in such a way.

Alley said the community was greatly affected at the time of the tragedy and that many still remember those dark days. “But look how far we’ve come,” she said. She encouraged the students to remember that better days do come. “I want all of you children to know that hard things happen but it will pass. It will get better,” Alley said.

Corby said she was impressed by how well the students picked up on the words to the songs and the message they portrayed, especially one song that talked about storms coming into life and passing.

Hansen said her motivation for putting together the music program was to teach children about the good things in life and that storms will pass.

Hansen said she vividly remembers coming back from Christmas vacation that year and how much the loss of those three students affected everyone. “It helped us care more and care about people in a different way, because you never know how long you have them,” Hansen said.

Sandy Ross Shupe, sister of 9-year-old victim Bonnie Ross, was touched by the evening’s events.

“I’m so glad they did the program. It was so delightful,” she said as she held the plaque. “This makes me realize how much people do remember.”

All three victims were children of doctors who were well known in the community. “So many people knew them because doctors know and help so many,” Shupe said.

Alley admitted the memories make her emotional, but it was touching to see that it wasn’t just the families that were affected and how loved they were.

“The musical was just beautiful and the words were true,” she said of the program. Many lingered in the gymnasium at the reunion-of-sorts with the former classmates and family members, exchanging phone numbers and memories.

That’s one of the reasons Hansen put the night together – to renew old friendships and memories. “It’s just one of those things you never forget. It’s a very tender part of me.”

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