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Released September 17, 2003

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By David Tisdale

HATTIESBURG - There was no arm twisting or persuasion involved in Hattiesburg artist Erik Eaves' decision to donate his time and talent to a good cause at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Seeking to add visibility to the Pink Garden, a memorial garden on the Southern Miss campus dedicated to survivors and those who have died from breast cancer, a committee made up of university employees decided to find a way to increase awareness of the garden.

"It's a beautiful garden, but not many people know what it is," said Mary Beth Walker of the Southern Miss Student Activities Office. "We though about getting some kind of marker."

Walker said a suggestion was made to hold a fund-raiser to purchase a stone marker from Stoneworks Studio, which Eaves opened in downtown Hattiesburg about five years ago. But when Eaves was approached about creating the marker, he refused to accept payment and instead offered his services for free.

"He said he would never dream of charging us for it," Walker said.

After being personally affected by the disease, Eaves said his decision to donate the time and material for the memorial was easy. "My mother, Diane, had breast cancer and it went into remission, and then she had ovarian cancer, and she defeated both of them," he said.

The stone Eaves is preparing will include the inscription, "The Southern Miss Garden - In Honor Of All Those Affected By Breast Cancer." A dedication ceremony will be held the week of Oct. 20, said Walker.

"This has been one of the most rewarding things I've been involved in. It's a powerful thing to be a part of," Walker said, adding that she's been inspired by the work of those members of the 'Pink Committee' who have suffered from the disease. "Everyone seems to have some connection to breast cancer, either they've had a mother or daughter or sister affected by it."

"As a cancer survivor, I'm overwhelmed by his generosity," said Jewel Tucker, administrative assistant to Southern Miss President Dr. Shelby Thames and a member of the Pink Committee. "It means a lot to me and my fellow survivors.

Last year when the garden was created, pink mums and tulips were sold to people who wanted the flower planted in the garden in memory of a loved one affected by breast cancer.

The garden was inspired by a campus-wide effort to increase awareness of the disease, which included decorating offices in pink, the color identified with breast cancer awareness efforts. It is located next to Danforth Chapel.

"We wanted some kind of living memorial, and we thought (the garden) would be fitting," Walker said. "I really believe it's made a difference (in awareness of breast cancer on campus)."

The Pink Committee also believes Eaves' donation will make people aware that the garden is more than just a collection of beautiful flowers.

"I'm really humbled to have the opportunity to produce this memorial," Eaves said. "It's a way to honor those who have lost their lives to this disease, and also those who have overcome it or are fighting it."



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April 20, 2004 4:48 PM