- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

NEWPORT, Mich. (AP) - A chalkboard sign decorated with blue coral and starfish prepares visitors to be transplanted from Michigan to “The Beach.”

The backyard of the home of Tom and Terry Klocek of Newport is an escape. It’s a place for reflection and a place to remember.

The yard, surrounded by a white fence, was transformed over the summer to honor the loss of the couple’s youngest child, Chelsea.

In March, the 17-year-old senior at Airport High School was killed in a traffic crash.

“Chelsea always had a smile on her face,” her father told the Monroe News (https://bit.ly/1sq2skg ). “You can see that in every photo she was smiling.”

Chelsea spent much of her time in the family swimming pool; after her death, the family removed it. Today, the area is covered in about 9,000 pounds of sand to create the beach. It features brightly colored Adirondack chairs and a rainbow umbrella where the family comes to sit and dig their toes into the sand.?

Some of the chairs circle a fire pit, while others are under the umbrella. The area has pieces of driftwood and animal statues, including a turtle and flamingos.

“It’s bright and colorful like her,” Terry Klocek said.?

Students at Airport and surrounding schools such as Jefferson and Monroe high schools sold T-shirts with Chelsea’s name and a heart on the front with her birth and death dates and her last name in zebra print on the back.??

The money raised from the shirts, which was about $1,100, was given to the family. They had no idea the school raised the money. Tom Klocek received it when he went to the high school to pick up Chelsea’s diploma and yearbook.??

“We didn’t want to keep the money, so we had to do something in her name,” Tom Klocek said.

The Kloceks said they wanted to do something special and decided to turn their backyard into a memory garden.

After months of work, the yard is divided into two primary gardens, with smaller gardens around the house and side yard. A small butterfly garden featuring statues and benches from Chelsea’s funeral is located in the far corner of the yard.

Along one of the patio posts is a sign that says “Welcome to Chelsea’s Beach,” along with some of the family’s preferred places to visit. At the end of the sign are the initials C.K. and N.B. The N.B. is for Nick Bonifacio, Chelsea’s boyfriend of three years who died in April.

“Chelsea’s favorite place was the beach,” Tom Klocek explained. He said the family vacationed in Florida. Nearly every picture on the outdoor patio table is of Chelsea at the beach in her swimsuit.

“She just loved the beach,” Terry Klocek said.

“This is a nice place for us to just sit and meditate.”

Work on the gardens began in May and finished a few weeks ago.

“It’s what we wanted,” Tom Klocek said.

Chelsea loved animals and one day wanted to be either a veterinary technician or study culinary arts. The yard features several animal statues, and the family is caring for Chelsea’s pets. “She would bring home just about anything,” Terry Klocek said.

Chelsea had cats, dogs, a guinea pig, hermit crabs and more during her lifetime. When she died, the family asked for donations to the Humane Society of Monroe County and were able to raise $1,400 in her honor.

The family, which includes older brothers Michael, 27, and Dakota, 22, are also on a mission in Chelsea’s honor. They hope to have a traffic signal installed at the intersection where she was killed.

“We want a light there,” Terry Klocek said. “Our goal is to make sure a light is put up so the area kids who use that intersection every day are safe.”

They also want to spare others from a similar tragedy.

“We want to prevent this from happening again,” Terry Klocek said. “No family should have to go through this.”

The Kloceks have contacted local legislators as well as the Monroe County Road Commission in an effort to have a signal installed.

“We are trying to focus on positive things to honor Chelsea,” Terry Klocek said.


Information from: Monroe News, https://www.monroenews.com

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