Friends and loved ones gathered Sunday morning in North Lawrence to celebrate the life of a former Lawrencian, Sarah Schmidt, and to dedicate a bench in her honor near the Kansas River Trails.
Sarah’s life was cut short in July 2022 while she was camping with her family in the Maquoketa Cave State Park in Iowa. Sarah’s husband, Tyler Schmidt, and their 6-year-old daughter, Lula, were also killed. Their son and Lula’s brother, Arlo, then 9 years old, was physically unharmed. Authorities believe the attack was a random act of violence, and the suspected killer was found dead by suicide shortly after.
Sarah and Tyler were both 42 years old. They lived in Lawrence from 2002 to 2018. Sarah worked at Monarch Watch for many years, and she had been working at the Cedar Falls, Iowa, Public Library when she died. Tyler worked for K-Mart, UPS, and then for TreviPay for more than 18 years, according to the three family members’ obituary.
An avid runner, Sarah was fond of the Kansas River Trails. She was a member of the Lawrence Trail Hawks, a local group founded in 2009 and is dedicated to the use, promotion and care of area trails. You could find her on the trails weekly.
Gary “Story Hawk” Henry led a dedication of a donated bench that was placed a short distance from the start of the trail near Eighth and Oak streets.
“I will always remember Sarah for that sense of humor, and for being a darn good trail runner too,” Henry said.
Following Sarah’s death, Lori Kesinger, president of the Lawrence Noon Lions Club, contacted the Trail Hawks to notify them that she may have a bench to donate in Sarah’s memory. The bench would be the result of the Trex plastic recycling program, which takes recycled plastics and “create[s] beautiful and environmentally responsible outdoor products.”
The bench took some time to procure. Trail Hawks worked to get permission from the Lawrence Mountain Bike Club and the city to place it. On the back of the bench, there’s a Latin inscription that translates to “Always with us.”
Sarah’s mother, Jean Morehouse, was in attendance Sunday, along with other loved ones and many Trail Hawks members.
The event also featured Linda Tilton of the Americana Music Academy as well as Dorothy Kurtz, of the Lawrence Ukulele Players group. The duo led the ceremony in two songs, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away.”
The bench was then carried to its installment area on the shore of the Kaw River. Attendees placed rocks on the existing outline of the seating area.
Morehouse spoke and thanked the crowd for their attendance, and mostly for their friendship to her daughter. Attendees thanked her for giving them their friend, “Our Hawk.”