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Fallen Patrick Henry alumni, faculty honored with memorial

Posted on Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

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Thirty-four bricks joined a memorial to celebrate the lives of Patrick Henry High School alumni, faculty and students at the second annual dedication ceremony as families gathered in front of the school to honor their loved ones Nov. 1.

“It’s nice because this is something that will be here forever,” said Drew Vass, an attendee.

Vass and his family devoted a red brick in honor of their father, James “Jim” Vass, who died in early October after battling pancreatic cancer, according to his obituary.

Mary "Lyn" Vass places a memorial brick at Patrick Henry High School.

Mary “Lyn” Vass places a memorial brick at Patrick Henry High School.

Drew’s mother, Mary “Lyn,” said she believes “[the brick dedication] would mean a lot to him.”

Lyn said her husband’s class of 1964 was the first to graduate after attending Patrick Henry for all four years. A number of Vass generations went to Patrick Henry including Drew.

The Vass family has another brick dedicated to their other son and graduate of the class of 1999, Clay, at the 2012 dedication. Clay’s brick lies just several blocks down from his father’s.

Last year was the first time organizer and 196 alumni Addison Jones hosted the memorial. Jones said so many people have expressed interest in wanting to get a brick for their loved ones, another ceremony will be held next year.

The tradition first started after a Patriot from the class of 1964 passed away. Jones said he and other graduates “felt it was important to pay a tribute” to deceased classmates and alumni, so they added members from other classes to recognize all departed Patriots.

Although Jones said only a handful of faculty members were commemorated this year, he expects there will be many more in the future now that residents are aware of the tradition.

At the first service, 15 bricks honored members of the class of 1964 and eight memorialized graduates from other classes. Patrick Henry High School’s first principal Nelson Taylor was also remembered that year, Jones said.

The combined 57 memorials joined the existing lot purchased by members of the class of 2000 in memoriam of their peer who died in a car accident in 1999. Brick dedications cost $75, with $50 of that total going to the Hanover Education Foundation.

Jones said the memorial is not limited to people from one specific class, but open to all deceased members of the Patriots family.

This year 16 bricks were dedicated to alumni from the class of 1966 and 14 from various other classes. Three faculty members and one assistant principal were also honored.

Principal Dr. Wanda Bibb expressed her gratitude at the ceremony for the “overwhelming” participation in the new tradition.

“No other high school has such a strong tradition of people returning like Patrick Henry does,” Bibb said.