Sit here

Teenager re­mem­bered with spe­cial bench at Amherst skate park.

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAR­RELL COLE dar­rell.cole@amher­st­news.ca Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Christo­pher Bax­ter had a smile that would light up a room and a per­son­al­ity that drew peo­ple to him.

The 22-year-old Amherst na­tive died in Hal­i­fax on Oct. 26 last year, but his mem­ory will live on in a new park bench that will sit at one of Bax­ter’s pas­sions, the Lions skate park next to the Amherst Sta­dium.

Bax­ter, who was on the Amherst Youth Town Coun­cil, was an ad­vo­cate for the park and served on an ad hoc skate park com­mit­tee that lob­bied the town to erect the fa­cil­ity that is re­garded as among the best in the Mar­itimes.

The 10,000-square-foot park opened in May 2011 at a cost of $370,000.

“We were blown away. We re­ally didn’t know what to ex­pect, but to see it was just awe­some,” said Christo­pher’s fa­ther, Peter, who at­tended the un­veil­ing with his wife, Tammy, and other fam­ily mem­bers. “We weren’t sure what they had in mind for a de­sign but we knew they were gath­er­ing skate­boards. We knew they had some­thing like that planned, but didn’t know the scope of it.”

Tammy said the bench is a great way of re­mem­ber­ing her son.

“To know his friends loved him that much that they would hand over their stuff to do this is kind of over­whelm­ing. It’s a great way to re­mem­ber him,” she said.

Bax­ter’s own skate­board is cen­tral to the bench while many of his friends pro­vided their boards too. Not only does the bench pre­serve his son’s mem­ory, but Peter is hope­ful it sends a mes­sage to other youth that they can make a dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­nity.

“It’s just so emo­tional and so heart-warm­ing to see this,” he said. “It’s also won­der­ful to know that some other young per­son can see what Chris and oth­ers his age (did) and how they made a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­nity.”

Peter re­mem­bers the park be­ing a huge pas­sion for his son, who was also a ta­lented hockey and base­ball player. He re­mem­bers Christo­pher spend­ing hours at the park af­ter it opened and be­ing called to bring meals and the oc­ca­sional bot­tle of Ga­torade to the park.

“There were times when we prac­ti­cally had to drag him away from the park be­cause he was there so much,” Peter said. “He ab­so­lutely loved be­ing there with his friends.”

Peter, who works at IMP Aerostruc­tures,

was ap­proached soon af­ter Christo­pher’s death by a co­worker, Mike Clark. He had taken his el­dest son to the skate park and asked him if he knew Christo­pher.

“My phi­los­o­phy is that when some­one passes away we do ev­ery­thing in our power to tell the sto­ries of the good times and suc­cesses,” said Clark, who now works for the United Steel­work­ers of Amer­ica in Labrador City, N.L. “Peter is a great friend of mine and I just felt we needed to cel­e­brate what Chris had done as a mem­ber of the youth town coun­cil

and what they ac­com­plished in get­ting this skate park built. It’s go­ing to be used for years and years to come. I thought what a great trib­ute to have up at that park.”

Christo­pher’s aunt, Grace Jarvis, was an­other strong ad­vo­cate of do­ing some­thing in his mem­ory.

“Christo­pher was an avid skate­boarder,” Jarvis re­mem­bered. “When I heard of his pass­ing, I felt we should do some­thing in his mem­ory be­cause of the big part he played in ob­tain­ing the skate park.”

When Clark’s job called him to Labrador, she picked up the cause and re­newed the con­nec­tion with recre­ation di­rec­tor Bill Schur­man.

Chelsea Baird, Amherst’s hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist, said she was ap­proached by Schur­man about the fam­ily want­ing to place a bench at the park.

“I knew we needed to have a bench that was a re­flec­tion of Christo­pher and some­thing that would hon­our his mem­ory for both his fam­ily and his friends,” Baird said. “Now I was on a mis­sion to find used skate­boards, if pos­si­ble from Chris’ friends to build the bench.”

Baird said her co-worker, Jen­nifer Bick­er­ton, said her step­daugh­ter, Ash­ley, was a close friend of Chris’ and she’d be will­ing to gather up as many boards as pos­si­ble from his friends.

“Once we had the boards, and the de­sign had been fi­nal­ized with Chris’s board placed in the mid­dle sur­rounded by his friends’ boards, lo­cal con­trac­tor Rick Gil­roy gra­ciously do­nated his time to­wards the con­struc­tion of the bench,” Baird said. “Once the con­struc­tion of the bench was com­plete, we sealed it with a ma­rine var­nish to help pro­long its longevity. The bench will be brought into the sta­dium for the win­ter months, a place where Chris spent time play­ing hockey grow­ing up.”

Mayor David Ko­gon and sev­eral mem­bers of town coun­cil were there for the un­veil­ing.

“I thought it was a great idea to hon­our Christo­pher,” Ko­gon said. “De­spite his young years, he con­trib­uted greatly to the town by first be­ing on the very first Amherst Youth Town Coun­cil and sec­ond by be­ing one of the driv­ing forces be­hind the cre­ation of the skate park. His con­tri­bu­tion to the youth coun­cil and to the devel­op­ment of the skate park truly help make Amherst a great place to live, work and play.”

TOM MCCOAG/TOWN OF AMHERST PHOTO

Tammy and Peter Bax­ter sit on a bench re­cently ded­i­cated in mem­ory of their son, Christo­pher, who died a year ago at age 22. Bax­ter was on the first Amherst Youth Town Coun­cil as a teenager and was in­stru­men­tal in get­ting the Lions Skate Park built next to the Amherst Sta­dium.

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