Memorials to Carnahan vary in size, style, vision

Monday, October 15, 2001

A quiet college reading room. An urban elementary school. A portrait in a rural courthouse. A garden in the shadow of the Statehouse.

All of these places and things pay tribute to Mel Carnahan, Missouri's governor who died in a plane crash a year ago Tuesday.

Those closest to the low-key Carnahan suggest he might be embarrassed about the posthumous honors -- some elaborate, some simple, some still evolving amid questions about whether they are impressive enough or, conversely, too expensive.

"He was the last person you would name, 'Limelight Guy.' Mel would think it was all a bit much. But he still deserves it, and more," said Roger Wilson, who ascended from lieutenant governor to governor after Carnahan's death last Oct 16.

Some of the Carnahan tributes are alive and thriving.

At Lee's Summit, for example, public school students who had hosted Carnahan for a campus tree-planting on Earth Day 2000 returned to the site to dedicate a sapling in his memory.

Today, the Governor's Garden, located between the Governor's mansion and the Capitol building, is to be renamed the Carnahan Memorial Garden.

Other tributes to Carnahan come in bricks, mortar and metal.

Soon to be dedicated with the late governor's name is a new National Guard armory in Rolla, Carnahan's hometown.

At Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mrs. Carnahan recently helped open the Mel Carnahan Reading Room, a cozy spot with comfortable sofas and plush armchairs in the renovated student union.

In September, the St. Louis School Board voted to name a proposed $12.5 million middle school after Carnahan. The late governor's youngest son, St. Louis attorney Tom Carnahan, said the family was touched by the gesture.

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