Mother mourns after roadside memorial removed

Deborah Stokes
Deborah Stokes
Gary Cabato; Parks and Recreation Director
Gary Cabato; Parks and Recreation Director

MAKAHA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Since December, 2003, a memorial of crosses sat just off Farrington Highway on City and County park property.

It was to the west of the Makaha Surfside condominium, on the ocean side of the highway, where two spikes and a stone stand. That's where Deborah Stokes' two bronze crosses used to be.

"It's not a piece of brass and a piece of stone. That was my boys," she said.

Her boys, Joshua and Christopher, were killed in a head-on traffic accident in 2003, along with two other teens.

Yesterday, the City Parks and Recreation Department removed the crosses she set up eight years ago. She was stunned to see the space empty when she drove by last night. She panicked.

"It just resonated in me, they're gone! They're gone!" she said through tears. "It was like I lost them all over again."

A city ordinance forbids memorials in parks because of liability concerns and the potential to distract drivers.

Parks and Recreation director Gary Cabato said it's a safety issue. He said his staff usually posts removal notifications near memorials. In this case the supervisor didn't

"I did reiterate to him to be more sensitive, at least put a notification up, give the family time to pay their respects. But they have to take it out," he said.

Cabato said families can buy a bench for about $300, and inscribe a memorial plaque that the city will install.

Stokes tracked down her crosses at the City Parks and Recreation maintenance yard in Waianae, where she reclaimed them.

She used to wave to them when she passed by on her way to and from work. It was a connecting point.

"I tell them, 'I love you,'" she said. "This morning I woke up. And when I drove by I had to stop myself."

Stokes now understands the city's position. She just wishes she was told before the crosses suddenly disappeared.

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