Memorial Plaque for a Murderer and Other Maudlin Tributes

By: Warner Todd Huston

In another example of the upside down nature of our nation today, a man who murdered his ex-girlfriend and then killed himself is getting a nice memorial plaque in a Minnesota kid’s ballpark because his love for the kids was “greatly appreciated.”

Never mind that he stalked his ex-girlfriend and murdered her. Never mind that, like a coward, he killed himself afterwards. It was enough that after this mental case died the Park District remembered he was a cool guy. That’s all they needed… their maudlin warm “feelings.”

In early September a plaque was placed in Erskine’s Athletic Park. It reads: “In loving memory of David DeFrang, whose love and devotion to our children is greatly appreciated.”

According to reports, DeFrang became unhinged when girlfriend Tina Gerving broke off their engagement. On January 23, 2005, he shot her to death and then turned the gun on himself.

Two years later the Park District dedicated this absurd plaque to him.

Their explanation? Folks liked the killer.

Morrison said a relative and two friends of DeFrang contributed about $200 to the idea of memorializing him in the athletic park ball field. DeFrang used to be the president of the Erskine Athletic Park Committee, which refurbished the park, Morrison said.

“He was very well-liked by the community here,” she said. The homicide-suicide was “one of those things that is impossible to explain,” Morrison said, and it didn’t fit with the DeFrang she knew.

This isn’t the only time a criminal has been illegitimately memorialized. A few years ago I reported on a story where a kid who was killed as he perpetrated an armed robbery got a grand memorial in his New York high school.

You heard right. A guy that was conducting an armed robbery and was killed in the commission of his crime was “memorialized” as a great kid by this fetid public school. And it wasn’t just the immature children who memorialized this thug. The school’s administrators actually lowered their US Flag to half-staff for this creep!

There was a day in this country, one now long passed apparently, when it was the victim that was memorialized instead of the craven murderer or thug criminal. There was a day when a killer’s or common criminal’s life would be looked upon as a sad commentary, a warning to others, a thing of shame and not something to be “memorialized” as if the criminal was an asset to the community, a person others should look to for inspiration.

Today, it’s all just another cause for maudlin memorializing.

It isn’t just this scumbag in Minnesota, or the gangsta’ wannabe from New York, either. You don’t have to be a killer to be afforded maudlin, feminized memorials to be built to you despite your accomplishments in life… or lack of them.

A thing that memorials should be is special. People of great ability, far-reaching charity, or monumental achievement used to be the subject of memorials in this land. A memorial was generally raised to someone who inspired others, someone who should be looked up to by everyone. We used to cherish great achievement. But this is no more.

Now, all one need do to get some sort of memorial is take a wrong turn on the highway, get hit by a drunk, or get run over by a car. Then, the next thing you know — or you won’t know because you’re dead — memorials will spring up on the side of the road where you breathed your last.

You’ve all seen them. These makeshift crosses, or the piles of stuffed animals precariously placed beside the road to act as a dangerous distraction to other drivers and an annoyance to road-crews and lawn mowers everywhere. These roadside memorials have the names of the dearly departed on them. There’s “John,” and “Dad,” or “Sis,” and “Jenny.” They have little plastic flowers stapled or glued to them. They’ve got nicely painted designs, or sport a photo of the auto accident victim. These maudlin things are everywhere you turn… literally.

It won’t matter if you were just an average guy who did nothing special, nothing of great moment. Heck, yer speshial just cuz someone luv’d ya, man. Our self-aggrandizing is complete. All ya gotta do is buy the farm, bite it, go room temperature.

Before you get your dudgeon up, I am certainly not denigrating these lamented victims. And the grief of the victim’s families is absolutely real and heartfelt. To try and quash their grief and the memory of their deceased loved ones is not the issue or my goal. Yet, I have one word to describe the proper place for memorials to your loved ones. That word is “cemetery.”

See, here is the thing; the side of the road is neither the appropriate place for a memorial, nor is it a safe one.

In Illinois, for instance, some mourners were arrested because they were writing maudlin memorial “messages” on the crossing gates at a railroad crossing after their friend Michael Dunscomb was struck and killed by a freight train in Villa Park, Illinois in September of this year.

These foolish kids had put themselves in possible danger by hanging around railroad tracks for their mawkish memorializing. And, even if they were not then in danger, this faux memorial would attract others who might end up in danger for their curiosity.

The same goes for these roadside shrines to thousands of unremarkable accident victims. If people actually take the time to notice these ridiculous things they either cause traffic problems, or put themselves in danger should they be standing on the side of the road gawking at them.

And, how much money do you think our municipalities have wasted in time, effort and gasoline as mower crews find themselves carefully mowing around these roadside crosses instead of just plowing straight ahead in a timely fashion with their lawn mowing devices as they should be doing?

Folks, leave your crosses in the cemetery where they belong. Remember your loved ones, certainly, but don’t force everyone else to be inconvenienced because a criminal drunk driver killed your Dad or your daughter who was sadly killed by running across the street without looking. I am certainly not asking you to forget them.

But, public places are for memorializing people who are an inspiration to us all. And unless your 5-year-old son who was run over in the street invented a cure for cancer or was a great philanthropist, his memorial belongs in a private place. Not in everyone else’s way.

For Heaven’s sake, America, buck up and quit being so selfish, so over-sentimental, so entirely, glaringly extroverted. Public memorials are for the extraordinary, Soldiers, statesmen, philanthropists. They are not your average, though loved, person. Overly abundant memorials to the average Joe diminishes real memorials.

Save the sentimentality for a proper memorial, please. Leave your crosses in the cemetery or your own property where they belong.

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