'Buddy Benches' dedicated in Lily Johnson's memory

LACONIA — Two Buddy Benches were dedicated in memory Lily Johnson at Woodland Heights Elementary School Monday afternoon in a ceremony in which purple and blue, Lily's favorite colors, were prominently displayed and her favorite phrase, ''It's always sunny above the clouds,'' was fondly recalled.
Johnson was 14 years old when she died from injuries suffered after being hit by a car while walking on the Messer Street Bridge on April 19, 2013. At the time of her death she was a student at Laconia Middle School. But before going to Laconia Middle she attended Woodland Heights.
Michelle Plourde, whose husband, David, built the benches, coordinated a project to have a Buddy Bench installed which dovetailed with the efforts of another teacher, Jess Ortolf, who worked with fifth grade student leaders on a similar bench project.
''It was the perfect merger,'' said Ortolf, who said that school staff wanted to find a way to memorialize Lily and thanked David Plourde for his work on the benches and Boulia-Gorrell Lumber Company for donating the cedar wood used to build the benches.

Ortolf had members of the student leaders group lead the assembled students in a Buddy Bench pledge which concluded with the words ''It's cool to be kind,'' a sentiment which Ortolf said Lily embodied in her interaction with other students.

Plourde, technology teacher at the school, said that Lily was the kind of person who was fun to teach and to be around and would have been the first to invite other students to share the bench with her.

Attending the ceremony were Lily's mother, Bethany Davis; Lily's brother, Keegan; and her grandmother, Sue Fleming.

Davis said that the last year has shown her what a compassionate and caring community Laconia is, and thought that the dedication was ''a beautiful ceremony. This is an amazing city.''
Fleming said that Lily would have been pleased to have the Buddy Benches installed in her memory.
''Lily will be sitting next to whoever sits on that bench. Her spirit is there,'' said Fleming.