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Fundraising Campaign to Renovate Montoursville’s Flight 800 Memorial Gardens Being Conducted

July 17, 1996, is one of the darkest days in local history. That is the day that 16 Montoursville High School students and five adult chaperones were killed in the explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800. In an effort to reverentially commemorate and remember them, a special Flight 800 Memorial Gardens was erected in an area near the Montoursville High School. This tribute was dedicated in 1999, and a Perpetual Care Fund was started, but in the 23 years since then, the lawn needs to be restored; the maple trees have heaved the brick walk in numerous spots to the point it is a tripping hazard. There are too many areas to make repair cost-effective, and the condition will continue even with the repair. The hemlock trees along the east and west property lines are 22 years old. They will not survive. Numerous hemlock trees have already been removed.

A committee was created and empowered to meet periodically to ensure the site was maintained.

Major renovations are needed, and this requires a major outlay of money, so the Perpetual Care Committee has launched a fundraising campaign that hopes to raise $200,000 for renovating and improving the Memorial Gardens.

The Memorial Gardens were completed in 1999 and dedicated July 17, 1999. Funds for construction were donated.

Robert Weaver, who is a member of the fundraising committee and lost his daughter, Monica, on Flight 800, had this to say about the effort: “The Perpetual Care Committee realized some time ago the need to replace the walk. Tree roots have caused it to heave. So, the primary need is to replace the walk,” Weaver told Webb Weekly.

“We started looking at options over a year ago with the assistance of Wayne Ettinger. We decided on a plan, prepared the fundraising brochure, and began fundraising in early spring 2022. To date, we have raised approximately $85,000.00. There are sufficient funds to replace the walk this fall. The school district and borough will work jointly to remove the hemlock trees along the east and west property lines in August as they are diseased and dying. The plan is to then plant the emerald-green arborvitae and place river gravel ground cover. And lastly, we will remove the mulch from around the twenty-one trees and plant a permanent ground cover of pachysandra.”

He continued, “We will phase the project with the walk being phase one and future work to be determined by the success of the ongoing capital campaign. We plan to continue the campaign until all funds are raised.

“The site is important to the community, and the renovations are needed to restore the site to its original condition, so it continues to be a community asset.”

If you wish to donate to this worthy effort, donations by check may be made out to MASD Foundation Memorial Gardens and mailed to: Montoursville Area High School, 50 North Arch Street, Montoursville, PA, 17754.