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Memorials in Sligo Park

Memory is a man's real possession. In nothing else is he rich.
Alexander Smith


During 2004-6 I made a point of learning something about the people who are recognized by memorials in Sligo Creek Park. The memorials here include one which is separated from Sligo Creek Park; it is on public land at an intersection of neighborhood streets near Colesville Road. Many benches honor individuals who died at a tragically young age. Six persons died from accidents, four from murders, and eight from illness. One bench commemorates a family that owned the Chestnut Ridge plantation in the 1700s. Not all the memorials are benches; the smallest memorial consists of a simple painted stone, and the largest is an entire park in tribute to a sixteen-year old, Becca Lilly, who died of cancer. She had become well known due to articles about her in the Washington Post. Most research was completed by 2005.

Memorials on this page are described in order from New Hampshire Avenue upstream to Maple Avenue.

Robert Harmon, Jr. and Robert Hobstetter

Plaque on bridge at New Hampshire Avenue and Sligo Creek Parkway, on the Parkway corner across from the commercial center.
On August 1969 a violent evening thunderstorm dropped four inches of rain in our area. By midnight rising creek waters had stranded a Virginia family on the Parkway, two blocks up from New Hampshire. The family escaped through windows and reached the New Hampshire bridge.

Two volunteer firefighters, Robert Harmon, Jr. and Robert Hobstetter from the Chillum - Adelphi Company, soon arrived and found the family "perched on the cement downstream railing of the bridge." As the rescuers reached the railing to help, macadam at the edge of the bridge suddenly gave way. Water cascaded through the opening and, a third person reports, "it was like a big drain. We were just sucked in. My friends thought I was history, but I managed to grab a branch on the bank."

Robert Harmon, 23, worked as a glassblower with NIH. He was wearing a lifeline when the macadam gave way, but the rope tangled around him underwater. He was brought to the Washington Sanitorium and Hospital, where he died within an hour.
Robert Hobstetter, 31, worked as a technician for TV station WTTG. He had recently moved to Bowie with wife and 5-year old daughter. While trying to save Harmon, Robert's lifeline gave way. He was swept a half-mile downstream and his body was found at 3am that night.
Family members and a third rescuer were eventually saved by Takoma Park firemen.

Much of the Parkway was still under water the next morning. For more details

Becca Lilly, 1980 - 1997
Becca Lilly Neighborhood Park
7330 Glenside Drive

Becca Lilly Neighborhood Park runs along Long Branch Tributary, close to New Hampshire Ave.

Driving south on Sligo Creek Parkway, a driver would turn left at New Hampshire, left at the first light on Glenside, and park near Merwood Drive, two streets down on the left. A paved path downhill leads to the playground.

The stone before the plaque was added, and the plaque.

Becca (Rebecca) Lilly lived six years after she was diagnosed with brain cancer at age ten. When she lost ground in 1995, gene therapy had become possible and Becca became the first child with a brain tumor to receive the treatment, at Children's Hospital. It did not succeed. Becca completed her junior year at Good Counsel High School (then in Wheaton), but died at home shortly after school ended.

A series of at leats six feature articles by Don Colburn in the Washington Post described Rebecca's last year. One result was that many people hoped and prayed for her, Colburn wrote. "Preschoolers colored for her. A Bethesda man gave her the Bronze Star he had been awarded during World War II. Former first lady Nancy Reagan mailed a jar of jelly beans." Through it all Becca wanted to be an ordinary tenager, and she rarely spoke of her cancer. This Park was dedicated to Becca in tribute to the bravery with which she faced life during her illness.

Text on the Rock
"Becca" loved sports, family, food, life, and God, in no specific order. She grew up here in the Long Branch section of Takoma Park. She loved to play in the park and many a birthday was held near this stone.

A diagnosis of a cancerous brain tumor in the summer of 5th grade did little to slow her down. All through six treatments, surgeries, chemotherapy and MRIs, Becca's focus was always on the Future. Taking care of her baby sister, Sarah, playing with her brother, Joe, or supporting her sister Ann Marie, who played basketball for Marymount University, all took precedence over her condition.

Her other love was children. Because classes at Good Counsel had become a challenge, a special curriculum allowed her to go to St. Andrews Elementary School to work and play with the preschoolers. Becca's story was followed by the Washington Post. (The balloons are quotes from people who wrote the Post, describing how Becca had touched them.) While she enjoyed the fame, it never affected her. She lived with great love, embodying the saying, "Be all you can be." Her tenacity, spirit, and courage remain examples for us all.

Enjoy your time at the park. Try and make it better, cleaner and "funner."

Dedicated September 29, 2007 by the family and friends of Becca Lilly.

See photos of damage to the Park from the 2004 storm.

Becca Lilly Park in summer and winter

Jane and Loren Sasseen

The plaque is on a bench located a short distance down the Trail from the Washington Adventist Hospital. The bible quote from Colossians, 3:14 was a favorite verse of Jane.

The bench is angled for a view downstream. It was contributed in April 2002 by a close friend
who often went with Jane and family on outings to the Park.
Jane lived in Palmer, Alaska near Mt.Denali. She often visited her daughter, who resides near the Carroll Avenue bridge. With daughter and grandchildren, Jane walked and biked in the Park and appreciated nature.

A law journal reports that in (apparently) 2001 a cocaine crack addict from three miles away knocked at Jane's house. He announced his intent to burglarize. When Jane went too slowly for her purse in a walk-in closet, he shot her in the forehead. Her body was later found buried under clothes and boxes. For nine days the addict made daily ATM withdrawals on Jane's credit card, totaling $4500 to buy drugs. By the tenth day authorities were monitoring many ATMs, and he was arrested. He received 99 years for murder and 19 more for robbery.

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Sally Gagne
February 2009