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'Kindness Garden' honors memory of Falmouth Middle School counselor

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'Kindness Garden' honors memory of Falmouth Middle School counselor

FALMOUTH — Lois Murphy's life was marked by kindness and dedication.

And flamingos.

A guidance councilor at Falmouth Middle School for 23 years, Murphy, who lived on Cousins Island, helped many students through difficult times in their lives and emanated a positive, caring attitude. She died a year ago at age 53 after an 18-month battle with lung cancer.

Her extensive collection of flamingos, many of which roosted in her office at school, began as a joke with a gift from her husband, Yarmouth Superintendent of Schools Ken Murphy.

"Lois loved flamingos," Jean Barbour, a nurse at the middle school, said. "Kids and parents gave them to her; her office was just flooded with flamingo stuff. It was a fun thing to find her a flamingo – the tackier the better."

On Thursday, May 21, at 2:45 p.m., Murphy's many friends will honor her by dedicating the Lois Murphy Kindness Garden at Falmouth Middle School. The courtyard garden features plants, trees, seating areas and, of course, a flamingo.

Former middle school Principal Jeff Rodman used a portion of the more than $4,000 in monetary donations made to the garden to commission sculptor Dereck Glaser, who crafted the bird from steel with a coating to bring out a reddish patina, Principal Sue Palfrey said.

In addition to donations of money, which have been pouring in since last year,  the school received many in-kind donations of plants and services from area businesses, organizations and individuals, including a tree donated by the eighth-grade class. A healthy snack fundraising drive at the school earned more than $700 in just one day, Palfrey said.

Under the leadership of Master Gardener Katy Gannon-Janelle, volunteers from St. Mary's Garden Club, school personnel, students and others from the community dug the garden beds by hand, "shovelful by shovelful," Palfrey said. The school received so many offers of plants from parents and students, organizers had to turn some away, Barbour said.

Because Murphy loved "flamingo pink," many of the flowering selections will have pink blooms. Gannon-Janelle tried to select flowers that would bloom in spring or fall, when school is open, and even included a planting of flamingo flower underneath one of the trees.

The school's environmental action club, The Green Team,  will help maintain the garden while school is in session and volunteers are already lined up to take care of it through the summer, Palfrey said. The club is also promoting composting at school to help nourish the plantings.

Now that the garden is completed, Palfrey said it will be used several different ways. Classes may choose to meet in the intimate space. Individual students will have access to the garden, probably as part of "You Got Caught," a rewards-based program at the school to recognize students who have been "caught" putting in extra effort or helping out others. And teachers and staff will also have opportunities to spend time in the tranquil setting.

Organizers of Thursday's dedication had no idea how many people to expect. But if the number of flamingos Murphy received from grateful parents and students is any indication, people may be flocking in to the courtyard to honor the woman who so strongly believed in the power of kindness, both in word and in deed.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.